Coming Soon: The privatised sick note service that will email you back to work

In two months time the traditional doctor’s note excusing you from work will start to cease being valid if you are still sick after four weeks.

Just before Parliament went into the summer recess welfare reform minister, Lord Freud, announced that a US multinational company,Maximus, which also operates in Canada and Saudi Arabia will take over running the new Health and Work Service for England and Wales.

My report in this week’s Tribune  reveals that up to one million people will be affected by the change which appears to be aimed to save the government money.

Maximus runs call centres, occupational health programmes, child support and job seekers programmes abroad and in the United Kingdom.

The programme is to be rolled out from November to next May aims to save up to £165 million a year by getting people back to work faster as part of Lord Freud’s welfare reforms.

The Scottish government  has declined to contract out the work to the private firm and will keep the assessment programme as part of the public service.

More worryingly it appears that the private company which will make the decision will not see anyone – and create a Return to Work programme  via  a call centre telephone interview and a decision by email.

The package is supposed to be agreed between the sick person and the private company and sent to both the individual and their employer. Failure to co-operate with the service will mean the individual will lose their sick pay.

Lord Freud is quoted in a DWP press release emphasising how the scheme will improve economic productivity and get people back to work faster.

He says:”Providing support where it’s needed most will help to reduce the length of time employees take off sick which, in turn, will cut sick pay costs, improve economic output and reduce the chances of people falling out of work and having to claim benefits. “

After the cruel and nasty system that forced disabled people  to find work or lose benefits run by the French company, ATOS, I have a suspicion that this new system could push the sick back to work before they are ready.

While ATOS did this by personal interviews and tests, Maximus look like putting the sick back to work without examining them to see they are fit and well. No doubt the government will see it as another way to tackle the workshy. But even employers’ advisers are sceptical about this. This new development needs watching.

34 thoughts on “Coming Soon: The privatised sick note service that will email you back to work

  1. Pingback: Coming Soon: The privatised sick note service that will email you back to work – David Hencke | Vox Political

  2. It’s beyond words they fail me. Another privatisation that won’t save money, won’t help those sick. Has the world gone mad I ask? As we soon find in the news another company failing another company that overcharged for its services. Nothings safe with this lot jeff3

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  3. David – Is your issue the process, the fact that it is a private contractor providing this service or both? I have no problem with my GP who is a private contractor.

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    • Nigel

      My biggest complaint is process. I am aware a GP is a private contractor. But your GP sees you and judges whether you are fit to work. As far as I can see Maximus whole only do a phone consultation, draw up a plan, and try and fix a date for you to return to work which is not the same as your GP saying you are OK.
      Also they will be doing this against a government policy aimed at saving millions of pounds of money by getting people back to work as fast as possible. Anybody off work for four weeks must be quite ill – so the risk of premature return to work must be quite high.

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      • “a government policy aimed at saving millions of pounds of money by getting people back to work as fast as possible” – is that wrong in itself, if people are fit to return to work?

        GPs may not be consistent in their approach and may not be that motivated to get people back to work. Sickness absence levels vary by sector (higher in the public sector) and organisation (higher in larger organisations) this suggests it does need more management. Strangely sickness is not such a problem for the self employed like me.

        I am sure GPs will still be ultimately responsible for their patients – nothing in the press release says that will not be the case – the press release talks of giving doctors advice and not instruction.

        It would be good to have more detail of exactly how their approach will operate -under Government / NOA rules it should be judged for VFM, but like you I hope it’s not like the appointment of Atos under the last Government.

        I have no preferences for or against the use private contractors in any aspect of public services – I do however have reservations about civil servants’ and the NHS’s current poor procurement and contract management skills. I also doubt some of the economic benefits quoted.

        I think a pilot programme might be a much better idea in this instance or more detail about comparable contracts elsewhere in the world. I think tiny steps aimed at improvement are better than attempted giant leaps.

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    • broken legs take more than 4 weeks to heal plus the physiotherapy after. having a caesarian means 6 weeks off work minimum, possibly more. Nigel why pay another private contractor to do the same job as your private contractor doctor? Two people being paid to do the same job. That doesn’t makes sense. How is that saving money?

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      • I think the answers to your point are given by David – he believes it’s driven by “a government policy aimed at saving millions of pounds of money” – that’s going to be in the business case for it and evaluated by the NAO – National Audit Office. David also highlights how he believes their jobs are different from GPs. David says he believes “the government will see it as another way to tackle the workshy” – I think most people will agree and think it’s a better way of saving money than cutting benefits of legitimate claimants. There is no way we can know how robust the process for identifying the “workshy” from the information provided. I expect it will be another gift to Government detractors who will focus solely on the flaws rather than consider it in its totality.

        You seam to missed the point that I made about my personal scepticism of some of the declared economic benefits – which is why I would have thought a pilot would have been better.

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  4. I am horrified at further interference from yet another US firm, more demands put on ill people who ARE working and once again instead of support to get well (the carrot), out comes the huge bloody stick to beat the ill individual once again, under the threat of losing their sickpay if they ‘don’t comply’. I would refuse any referral, deny this company my telephone number and my email and state that I have a Doctor dealing with my health issues and I will not, under any circumstances, discuss private matters with any employees of said company. What with the WCA assessment, the ESA assessment, the ESA health pilot, the PIP assessment, we now have another company that wants private individuals to discuss extremely private issues with total strangers under the threat of loss of sickpay. I am thoroughly sickened by this government blatant privatisation of public services.

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    • All of this! Thank you for plucking my thoughts straight from my brain. I don’t see how anyone with an ounce of decency could force you to deal with a private company, rather than an actual doctor. Absolutely ludicrous! Let’s hope there’s enough protests from employers to halt this insanity immediately.

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  5. Another ATOS , they’ll create more problems than they supposedly solve and these spivvy outfits DO NOT save money . The question begged is if someone was chased back to work for apparently ! malingering and then aggravated an injury , illness or condition , where would the buck stop ? , the employer , Maximus or the Government ? .

    ATOS run ” Occupational Health ” ” Services ” for the likes of Royal Mail and ironically the DWP . No one trusts them whatsoever , both the CWU and the PCS wanted reps to ride shotgun on these sham ” consultations ” . The question that was initially begged was who will be standing up in a Employment Tribunal , ATOS or the DWP / Royal Mail ?

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    • The longest period of absence from work I had was 12 weeks when I had ovarian cancer which required an urgent hysterectomy and oophorectomy and follow up treatment; I can’t imagine speaking to someone with no medical qualifications, from another country in a call centre to explain exactly why I might not have a clue when I would be fit for work. It is hard enough getting sense about computers, telephones and other services via call centres let alone something as important as this. Surely this requires clinical knowledge.

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  6. Aargh. So many of the people I am having to help with wrong decisions on their disability claims have mild learning disabilities, mental health problems and conditions like dyslexia and epiliepsy that mean they either can’t read a computer screen or can’t explain themselves properly over the phone. Double Aargh.

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    • Do you mean mild learning disabilities? Because learning difficulties means IQ is affected, e.g. IQ 70 or below. In learning disabilities, IQ is not affected. Learning disabilities is dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia.

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  7. 165 milllion a year is not really that much in the grand scheme of things , hell its not even enough to build a large building… how much did the Olympics cost? This scheme will end up costing more than its worth .£165 million a year is not enough of a saving compared to people who genuinely need time off work to recuperate, profit over lives as usual, thanks Tories

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    • Maybe if government are so keen on US ways, we should encourage those adversely affected to sue the backsides off them

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  8. A licence to harass the sick back to work too early. It will only save money in the short term. Long term damage by pushing people back to work before people are fully recovered will cost in the long run but won’t be measured.

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    • True. Have been forced back to work under threat of the sack if I didn’t. Went back, got worse then became too ill to get to work and was sacked for long term sick absence.

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  9. If someone comes back to my place of work and passes on their symptoms I will be not pleased. Also if someone is terminally ill, or has a long term illness that does not get better, I do not want to see them back at work and having to struggle to keep going. That is not what the health service is about. This new private company will be another flop and end up costing more than it should.

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  10. Reblogged this on SMILING CARCASS'S TWO-PENNETH and commented:

    I can’t help but wonder if this will actually save money, or just put more of our money into the pockets of the privateers.

    I also wonder, if you’re ill or injured and still under the care of a hospital or your GP, and they are saying you are too ill to work what will happen?

    For example, about three years ago I broke my collar bone and was off work much longer than 4 weeks; my GP, doctor at the hospital and physiotherapist all said I was not to go back to work and to give the arm/shoulder complete rest.

    Where would I be if, after four weeks some private company telephoned me and then sent an email saying ‘back to work, your sick pay stops tomorrow’ because they get paid more for getting me back to work- or more accurately finding a way to stop my benefit?

    Well, let’s stop the bullshine; it’s a way to stop your sick pay and force you, ready or not to return to work- or possibly you’ll find yourself having to sign on for Job Seekers Allowance- which you won’t get because you’re not fit for work!

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  11. Why do the British put up with this nonsense? Adults having to get a doctors note to prove to a private employer that they are ill. The government is instilling subservience, as if you were school age children trying to ditch class. Granted there are adults who take advantage of sick time here in the US, but they get fired. I certainly don’t want to go to the doctors office crying and vomiting with a migraine to prove that I am incapable of working on that day. Just let me stay home and deal with it. Don’t force people to come in and spread their germs. Stay home a few days and get well and get back to work. For most everyday problems thats enough. Forget about who’s making money off of these doctor notes, just eliminate the whole process and let the British carry on like adults.

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    • Earth to Julie Foucart. The WHOLE REASON for this latest scheme is because TOO MANY Britons are NOT BEHAVING LIKE ADULTS, by NOT returning to work in a timely manner…. If they’ve EVER worked at all.

      The UK has far too many adults that are totally dependant upon the government (aka-tax payers), often from cradle to grave. They MUST be forced into some resemblance of self sufficiency.

      Like Nigel said earlier….self employed people don’t often have lengthy sick periods away from work.

      Now ask yourself why that is.

      Ps- I find it difficult to believe that you’re an American. Because any self respecting American would be shocked and disgusted by such a overly generous, destructive, and easy to manipulate, system that encourages laziness, generational dependence, Ill Heath, mental disorders, and social unrest.

      For shame……….

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      • Katrina,

        I’m a bit surprised about your views that too many Britons don’t want to get back to work. And as for cradle to grave support in the UK, you are a bit out of date.Apart from the NHS, which is available free at the point of use for every Brit, those days are long gone.

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  12. Pingback: #Conservative #LibDems have Privatised Sick Pay Eligibility and removed GP’s from the process « Derby People's Assembly

  13. So you see a GP who says you can’t work and now there will be an expensive private company making money out of falsely claiming you can overriding the health care profession and putting lives at risk by making unfit people work, should work well alongside the similar failings in esa and dla.

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  14. Pingback: Meet Richard A. Montoni – The Five Million Dollar Maximus Boss Here To Fleece The UK’s Benefits System | the void

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