The Royal College of Psychiatrists has expressed alarm at new statistics suggesting that mental health conditions are now a far more common reason for being signed off from work with one in three sick notes being for mental health problems.
Dr Jed Boardman, Lead for Social Inclusion at the College, pointed out that, traditionally, the leading cause was back pain but this had now been overtaken by mental health and behavioural conditions.
"GPs and employers must do more to facilitate a person’s return to work," he argued. "GPs will write suggestions on the Fit Note, such as staggered work days or agreeing specific goals for the returning employer - both parties need to be more active in tailoring these suggestions to that person."
Dr Boardman warned that the new data might even underestimate the scale of the problem given that almost half of benefits claimants of Employment and Support Allowance in England are receiving payments as the result of mental and behavioural disorders.
Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said: "These figures explain why the NHS is now putting mental health front and centre, in what was recently independently described as ‘the world’s most ambitious effort to treat depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses’."
The NHS figures (available at http://bit.ly/2w1UfWq) show a 14% rise in notes relating to anxiety and stress in one year.
"The Government has committed to putting NHS mental healthcare on a par with physical healthcare - employers would do well to follow their example," Dr Boardman concluded.