Ill patients are refusing sicknotes from their GP because they cannot afford time off work, while doctors suffer “moral distress” at their powerlessness to do more to help the most vulnerable, the new leader of Britain’s family doctors has revealed.
More patients are experiencing asthma attacks or other serious breathing problems because they cannot afford to heat their homes, said Dr Kamila Hawthorne, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, while many have reported deteriorating mental health due to financial stress.
Soaring food costs are also leading to a rise in fatigue, mouth ulcers and weak muscles, with people deficient in key vitamins because they cannot afford to eat anything other than a poor diet.
So many patients are presenting with complex physical and psychological problems related to poverty, domestic violence, childhood abuse or poor housing that GPs are suffering psychologically from their inability to take the requisite action, she said.
Hawthorne said: “Recently I’ve had patients refusing sicknotes 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.
“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 sicknote 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 sicknote 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.”
Source: The Guardian, 23 November 2022