The leaders of more than 30 healthcare professional bodies in Britain have teamed up as part of a groundbreaking agreement that stresses the link between work and health.

In order to advise patients on the role that work can play in good health, the organisations have signed a consensus statement in partnership with national director for health and work Dame Carol Black.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claims that evidence indicates that returning to work tends to be good for health and recovery.

Under the terms of the agreement, medical professionals have agreed to promote the link between good health and work and to help patients to enter, remain in or return to work where it is in their best interests.

"For too long it has been automatically assumed that a return to work would be bad for your health," work and pensions secretary James Purnell explained.

"Today’s groundbreaking agreement turns this old fashioned notion on its head. The health profession are recognising the role that work can play in getting people fit and healthy and it will create a crucial culture change for the welfare state."

The government has unveiled plans to expand a pilot scheme with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to provide GPs with training and practical help aimed at supporting them to help patients and meet a target to reduce the number of people on incapacity benefit by one million by 2015.

A new research report from the DWP reveals that the number of people on incapacity benefit have started to fall for the first time in a generation.