Yesterday, BBC Wales reported that GPs in South East Wales have been instructed not to write letters to support their patient’s benefit appeals. The Bro Taf local medical committee, representing GPs, says “writing letters stops doctors seeing ill patients” amounting to an “Abuse of resources”
It clearly escaped them that these patients are ill enough to be making a claim for out of work subsistence benefits and therefore likely to be some of the most unwell people attending their surgeries.
However, more importantly, DWP ministers have blamed the staggering 43% ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) appeal rate on claimants not requesting and submitting enough medical evidence. As Mark Hoban claimed,
“What’s happening too often is people are suggesting to claimants ‘oh, just leave the medical evidence until the appeal’ – there’s a shared responsibility here.”
In theory, within the claim process, Atos is expected to request evidence from a claimant’s doctor when the claimant is likely to be placed in the Suport Group. For the year up to October 2012, Atos only requested such evidence (as an ESA113 form) in 27.2% of all ESA referrals; 23.8% of these were not returned by GPs.
Sadly, the House of Commons overturned a recommendation by the House of Lords that supporting evidence be sought in all ESA cases.
Claimants already overwhelming feel that the medical evidence they do submit is ignored by Atos assessors and DWP decision makers and 40% of cases that do go to appeal are overturned.
If GPs withdraw their support in this way, the claimant is entirely at the mercy of a tick-box computer based questionnaire, carried out by someone who does not have to be a doctor and who need have no knowledge at all of their condition or disability. This tick-box system has been shown to be inadequate and unfit for purpose by every major study. Both the BMA (British Medical Association) and the RCGPs (Royal College of GPs) have called for the assessment (WCA) to be withdrawn with immediate effect.
The opinion of a GP who knows the claimant well is often the only lifeline left to many facing this bleak, impersonal “assessment”, If they refuse to help, they will be abandoning millions to a broken system.
It simply must not happen.
**Update. This comment was left on The Void and since, Bro Taf have said they will be issuing a statement later today. Hopefully, this measure will not be maintained :