Naga Munchetty Cannot Hide Her Confusion Over Government's Takedown Of 'Sick Note Culture'

Naga Munchetty grilled work and pensions secretary Mel Stride on Friday morning
Naga Munchetty grilled work and pensions secretary Mel Stride on Friday morning BBC Breakfast

Naga Munchetty struggled to untangle the government’s new bid to get people on long-term sick leave back into work this morning.

The BBC Breakfast presenter began by querying work and pensions secretary Mel Stride over the Tories’ attempt to take on “sick note culture”.

She said: “94% [of those on sick leave] have been signed off by a GP.

“Do you think fewer than 94% should have been signed off by a GP?”

Stride replied: “I think many more people are able to, with the right support...”

The presenter cut in: “No no no. Sorry, that’s not my question.

“My question is, because the point is that you are going to ask for other medical professionals, pharmacists for example, to assess people for sick notes.

“Do you think of those 94% of people who were signed off, who asked for be signed off, do you think there should have been some that weren’t?”

Stride replied: “I think I did answer your question, and I started to say, yes, I think there are far more people currently being signed off – 11 million sick notes per year – who, with the right support, that we are going to be standing up through something called Work Well –”

Munchetty interrupted: “No, I’m sorry, you’re not answering my question. You’re telling me how you would like to encourage or help people who have been signed off, to avoid being signed off.

“What I’m asked is of the 94% who were signed off by GPs, do you think some of those should not have been signed off?”

Stride, appearing a little frustrated, said: “I’ve already said yes. It’s a one-word answer: yes. I’ve said that three times.”

“You don’t believe the GPs should have signed those people off, therefore the GPs aren’t doing their jobs?” Munchetty asked.

“No not at all. I think GPs are doing a fantastic job,” Stride replied, adding that he is not criticising GPs  but calling for more “work support”.

He claimed: “That will take the numbers down but it will be to the good and benefit of those people who will then benefit from staying in work.”

“You want GPs to help manage people in their workplace?” Munchetty said, with a bewildered expression.

Stride said no, he wants a medical system where work coaches help people to stay in work.

There was then a long pause, before Munchetty said: “Do you believe that you respect mental health problems?′

Stride said he does and he has openly supported the wider discussions our society has about mental health these days.

PM Rishi Sunak is set to unveil this new plan for the workforce later today, where it will become harder for people to get sick notes from their doctors.