Doctors are to be asked to do more to help the long-term sick get back to work under new guidelines to be issued to GPs.

It is hoped the move could help improve the inclusion of the workplace of those suffering from long-term conditions and boost their overall happiness.

In a new draft version of the Good Medical Practice guidelines from the General Medical Council (GMC), which are currently in the consultation phase, GPs must “support patients in caring for themselves to empower them to improve and maintain their health”.

It continues: “This may include encouraging patients, including those with long-term conditions, to stay in or return to employment or other purposeful activity.

“You may also advise patients on the effects of their life choices on their health and well-being and the possible outcomes of their treatments.”

Doctor Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, welcomed the move, claiming that staying in work boosts people’s general health and happiness.

“There is a clear link between health and gainful employment, whether that’s paid or voluntary. Bearing in mind what an individual is capable of, a doctor should encourage a patient to increase their activity, if that is appropriate.” he told the Daily Telegraph.

The guidelines come at a particularly sensitive time due to the government’s move to reduce the number of people on incapacity benefit to encourage more people to go back to work.

The GMC, however, has distanced itself from government policy and stressed the guidelines only call for doctors to encourage those suffering from long-term conditions to return to the workplace if it is in their best interests.

“We don’t want to suggest doctors become policemen of the state. It has to be where it is in the patient’s best interest that encouragement and support is given,” said Niall Dickson, GMC chief executive.