Government proposals to cut the numbers of those claiming long-term sickness benefit were denounced as the "politics of the workhouse" today.
A government-backed review conducted by Professor Carol Black and former British Chambers of Commerce head David Frost has recommended that people should be signed off for long-term sickness by an independent assessment service and not by GPs.
Prof Black claimed that the current system was not working for anyone.
"What the GPs say is they don't have time to do an in-depth functional assessment and nor have they had any training in occupational health, so we think it's providing a new unique service that both employers and GPs need."
The deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, Dr Richard Vautrey, said: "If what is being described is a proper health and occupational health assessment at an earlier stage in the patient's illness then that would be helpful.
"But if it turns out to be a punitive process just to try and save money without the best interests of the patient at the heart of the process then it will fail."
The review's authors further propose that those who are signed off sick be put on to Jobseekers' Allowance instead of Employment Support Allowance for a period of three months.
This would mean they would receive less money and have to prove they were looking for work.
The review also suggests that firms should receive tax breaks if they employ people who suffer from long-term conditions.
It is estimated the changes would send 20 per cent of those off sick back to work.
But Hazards campaign spokeswoman Hilda Palmer told the Star: "Instead of setting up more systems to punish workers who are on sick leave trying to recover - often from illnesses caused by their work - emphasis should be put on preventing them being made ill in the first place.
"Putting workers under more stress and punitive scrutiny while they are ill is the politics of the workhouse and this report feeds into the current 'blame the workers not the real culprits' thinking and policy-making that will send us down the road to utter bankruptcy even faster."
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