PIF members have responded to a speech in which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced reform of the fit note process.

Members criticised the PM's comments for dismissing the reality of mental illness and perpetuating damaging rhetoric around mental health.

In its response, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: "We are disappointed that the Prime Minister used his speech to conflate those suffering with a mental illness with a ‘sick note culture’. This language dismisses the reality of mental illness, which is concerning given the associated poor quality of life and increased mortality rates. It also reinforces the stigma the government is committed to eliminating."

Dr Sarah Hughes, chief executive of Mind, said the speech continued a trend in rhetoric which is "harmful, inaccurate and contrary to the reality for people up and down the country".

"“To imply that it is easy both to be signed-off work and then to access benefits is deeply damaging," she said in the charity's statement. "It is insulting to the 1.9 million people on a waiting list to get mental health support and to the GPs whose expert judgement is being called into question."

In a response on social media platform Twitter/X YoungMinds said the speech revealed the Government's "worrying blindspot over both the causes of the mental health emergency and the support available for those who are suffering".

The charity said there are important conversations to be had about over-medicalising distress but they should be about how we respond to distress, not denying its existence.

In its response, Rethink Mental Illness agreed people with experience of mental illness need more support to enter work when they well enough to do so.

However, it called for solid details of how this support would be "funded, delivered and co-produced with the people it aims to help" and criticised the current "punitive approach".