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Patients refuse sick notes as they can't afford not to work, says GP

Ill patients ‘are REFUSING to take sick notes from GPs’ because they can’t afford not to work amid cost-of-living crisis, nation’s top doctor claims

  • Royal College of GPs chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne has been ‘surprised’
  • She said patients who clearly need time off will not take it as they can’t afford to
  • Patients included those with asthma, diabetes or severe mental health problems
  • She said they say they need to keep earning to feed themselves and their family
  • This comes as inflation hit a 40-year high of 11.1 per cent, higher than predicted 

Patients are refusing to accept GP sick notes because they can’t afford to take time off work, the country’s top doctor claimed today.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, who took over as chair of the Royal College of GPs last week, said the cost-of-living crisis has ‘suddenly got a lot worse in the last couple of months’.

She said: ‘Recently I’ve had patients refusing sick notes because they can’t afford not to work.

‘Quite often, when it’s clear that somebody needs some time off, they won’t take it.’

Some of the patients refusing sick notes have chronic health conditions like asthma and diabetes, or mental health problems.

Patients are refusing sick notes because they cannot afford to take time off work, a leading GP has said

Professor Kamila Hawthorne (pictured), chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the cost-of-living crisis has ‘suddenly got a lot worse in the last couple of months’

People are wearing glasses with the wrong prescription as they struggle to pay for new spectacles amid the cost-of-living crisis, experts have warned.

A survey of 876 optometrists found seven in 10 had seen a patient in the last three months who needed vision correction but took no action because they could not afford to.

Optometrists said people are risking long-term sight damage.

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) also conducted a new poll among British adults and found 62% who wear glasses or contact lenses say they are currently ‘putting off’ paying for suitable vision correction due to the crisis.

The poll of 1,000 UK adults found 36% are wearing out-of-date prescriptions and a fifth (19%) use glasses they have had to fix themselves.

One of the survey respondents told the AOP: ‘Although my sight is very important, so is feeding my children.’

Inflation currently sits at a 40-year high of 11.1 per cent — driven by soaring food and energy costs.

Top economists estimate that the average UK household is now paying nearly 90 per cent more for heating and lighting than a year ago.

And experts fear worse is still to come.

More people are suffering from asthma attacks as they can’t afford to heat their homes while others are experiencing deteriorating mental health due to financial struggles, Professor Hawthorne said.

The GP in Mountain Ash, South Wales, told The Guardian: ‘These are people who ideally, medically, should not be at work [because] they have a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes, but quite often mental health problems, quite severe mental health problems.

‘I [see] some cases that really do require a bit of sick note peace and quiet to try and help them get better.

‘I’ve been really surprised in the last year that when I’ve offered a sick note they’ve said ‘Oh no, no, I can’t take time off. I need the money from work’. They’ve refused.

‘They say ‘I need to keep working to earn and to feed myself and my family’.

‘I don’t take it personally, of course, but I feel sad for people because for a few minutes you enter their lives and see that it’s really tough.’

Professor Hawthorne, who is also head of graduate entry medicine at Swansea University, said people are ‘very anxious’ about what is in store as the weather gets worse.

She said: ‘I’ve now got patients who are worried about fuel costs this winter, who’ve not turned on their heating yet and are keeping their windows shut.

‘People are very, very anxious about what’s to come and whether they’re going to have to choose between heating and eating.’

Professor Hawthorne added that GPs are suffering psychologically as a result of the crisis because they feel they cannot help their patients how they would like to.

It comes as doctors are set to prescribe heating for more than 1,000 vulnerable patients whose conditions worsen in the cold.

The ‘Warm Home Prescription’ pilot, funded by taxpayers, has so far paid to heat the homes of 28 patients on low incomes and is to be rolled out to 1,150 more in Gloucester, Aberdeenshire and Teeside.

Prescribing heating can stop the patients’ illnesses from deteriorating, reducing their odds of needing hospital care and saving the cash-strapped NHS millions in the long-run, advocates of the scheme say.

It comes as Britons face misery this winter due to soaring inflation. Food, fuel and energy bills have skyrocketed, pensioners are being forced back into work and supermarkets are putting more products under lock and key

The Bank of England had predicted inflation would peak at 10.7 per cent.

But it has already soared to 11.11 per cent, leaving it under huge pressure to ramp up interest rates again.

There have been huge hikes in food prices as a result, with shops resorting to security tagging items.

Inflation in the UK has jumped to 11.1 per cent in October – far worse than predicted by experts

ONS figures show just how much the price of supermarket staples and food inflation has risen in October

Milk, cheese and egg prices rose by more than 27 per cent, compared to last year, and these and other common household items have been found locked in a security box.

As Britons struggle to heat and eat as a result of soaring prices, retired pensioners are even being forced back to work in order to put food on the table.

Recruitment specialists Reed say fearful retirees are reassessing finances amid warnings of a looming recession.

One couple, Joan Preston, 79, and her husband Leon, 81, last month revealed how they were working part-time shifts to top up their state pension.

Mrs Preston works up to four days a week, while Mr Preston works one or two shifts a week at a cinema, earning the minimum wage to top up his £140-a-week state pension.

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  • Posted on November 24, 2022