Rishi Sunak Might Want To Rest Up After Critics Demolished His Attack On 'Sick Note Culture'

Rishi Sunak took aim at
Rishi Sunak took aim at "sick note culture" in a speech on Friday. WPA Pool via Getty Images

Rishi Sunak unveiled his plan to get more people back into work by taking on so-called “sick note culture” on Friday – but it has not gone down well.

The prime minister announced that he was looking to make it harder for people to be signed off work by their GPs after a rise in long term sickness since the pandemic.

While he claimed he would never “dismiss or downplay the illnesses people have”, Sunak also said there is a risk of “over-medicalising the challenges of every day life”.

The PM said this review of the system comes after 11 million fit notes were issued last year – 94% of which were signed off as unfit for work last year.

He said: “We don’t just need to change the sick note, we need to change the sick note culture so the default becomes what work you can do – not what you can’t. ”

However, Pat Cullen, general secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, condemned the comments.

She said: “Nursing staff are the largest single workforce in health and care, but they themselves are suffering from increasingly poor long-term health.

“The prime minister’s overtures about ‘sicknote culture’ will be deeply offensive to a profession hit hard by long COVID and a spiralling mental health crisis. Issues of population health are not ones that a government can simply instruct away.”

Meanwhile, the executive director of politics a the Tony Blair Institute, Ryan Wain, quickly slammed the PM.

He said: “Characterising our nation’s worsening health as ‘sick note culture’ is a distraction from the real issue.

“If we want to reduce the now record number of people off work the government should address the root causes of long-term sickness.

“That means moving from a healthcare system that treats preventable diseases to one that prevents disease in the first place.”

He added that instead of debating the cause behind this decline in health, politicians should be working to prevent sickness even happening.

Wain was not alone in criticising the PM for his stance, with the feedback coming in thick and fast on social media.

Many suggested that poor mental health may stem from the ongoing problems with our economy and housing market, while others said Sunak – the richest occupant No.10 has ever had – is not in touch with the “challenges of every day life”.