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New GP survey shows Government welfare test is pushing vulnerable people to the brink

(17 Posts)
ttosca Fri 07-Sep-12 10:48:12

Tuesday 4th September – More than eight out of ten GPs say they have patients who have developed mental health problems due to a controversial benefits test, according to new polling released today by the charity Rethink Mental Illness.

Over 1,000 GPs were asked for their views on the impact of the Work Capability Assessment on the mental health of their patients.

The test is being used by the Government to determine eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which replaced incapacity benefits in 2008.

Around 1.5 million people are currently being re-assessed for ESA through the Work Capability Assessment, which is the subject of a Parliamentary debate taking place today.

The polling, commissioned by Rethink Mental Illness, reveals that more than one in five (21%) GPs have patients who have had suicidal thoughts as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment, while three quarters say that patients who have been negatively affected by the test have needed increased support from them.

Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said:

“These shocking statistics really show that the Work Capability Assessment is pushing some of the most unwell and vulnerable people in our society to the brink. Many people who have a severe mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder say that their condition has been made even worse as a result of the stress caused by the test. It’s the number one concern for our members, and our staff have been inundated with calls from people who are extremely worried about the impact it is having on their mental health.”

“These figures demonstrate how urgent it is that the Government overhauls the test. It is putting a strain on individuals, families and the NHS. The human and economic costs are too great for the Government to continue with it. We urge the Government to halt the system now – it could be the difference between life and death for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Over 61% of GPs said assessors do not make enough use of their knowledge of the mental health of their patients. Paul Jenkins said:

“This highlights one of the most serious problems with the Work Capability Assessment. People undergoing the test are expected to gather their own medical evidence to prove that they are unfit for work, which can be an almost impossible task if you are dealing with symptoms like hearing voices, having delusions or being incapacitated by depression.

“This puts the most vulnerable people with severe mental illness at a serious disadvantage. It means that GPs’ knowledge of their patients’ mental health often goes unconsidered when claims are assessed”.

Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said:

“The RCGP supports and works with Rethink Mental Illness because it is championing the rights of people who have a mental illness. We live in a stressful society and GPs are seeing an increasing number of patients with mental health issues and stress-related illness. It’s important that mental health has parity with physical health issues in the way that patients are regarded and looked after in society.”

Ursula Sinclair, 42, from Gloucester, has depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Just days after going through the Work Capability Assessment, she attempted to take her own life. Ursula says:

“I was devastated when I was initially told that I didn’t qualify for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because I know that I’m not fit to work at all. I became extremely distressed, and that this was one of the reasons I took an overdose a few days later.

“We appealed and my ESA was reinstated. However, we now need to go to a tribunal to make the case for me to keep getting ESA in the long term. These past few months have been nerve wracking to say the least, and I’m really worried about what will happen in the future.”

Key findings from the polling:

• 84% of GPs say they have patients who have presented with mental health problems such as stress, anxiety or depression as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment

• 21% of GPs say they have patients who have had suicidal thoughts as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment

• 14% of GPs have patients who self-harmed as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment

• 6% of GPs have patients who have attempted or committed suicide as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment

• 75% of GPs said that patients who are negatively affected by undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, need increased support from their GP

• 61% of GPs say that JobCentre Plus (via Atos Healthcare) does not makes enough use of their knowledge of the mental health of your patients during the Work Capability Assessment process

• 67% of GPs think that the assessors should seek information from GPs directly for those patients with mental health problems who are too unwell or vulnerable to arrange this themselves

2old2beamum Fri 07-Sep-12 10:59:00

Why am I not surprised, fortunately I have no mental health issues but the way my DD has been treated over ESA I am rapidly being pushed to the brink.

Empusa Fri 07-Sep-12 11:38:18

The problem is, it doesn't just affect the person being assessed, but also their friends and family. sad

threesocksmorgan Fri 07-Sep-12 11:44:08

no surprise there.

FrothyOM Fri 07-Sep-12 13:33:18

No disrespect to the OP but this isn't news to me. sad

Marks place.

BlackberryIce Fri 07-Sep-12 13:47:30

The gp's think that they should be approached directly for some of the information. Great in theory, but I wonder if gp practices would charge for this 'service'!

Darkesteyeswithflecksofgold Fri 07-Sep-12 14:11:17

Blackberry some GPs are charging to provide support letters for claims. I know someone who was charged £70.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 07-Sep-12 14:13:25

So the answer is no assessments at all?

BlackberryIce Fri 07-Sep-12 14:14:10

That's the worry isn't it. I heard gp's are no longer able to countersign passport applications because they abused their position and charged so much

Vagaceratops Fri 07-Sep-12 14:52:48

My GP charged me £15 to sign a document for DS2's school agreeing to the use of an EPIPEN he had already prescribed.

Tansie Fri 07-Sep-12 14:59:44

Which is why GPs are not fit people to be in charge of the cash in the NHS. See this

and consider donating!

OrangeKipper Fri 07-Sep-12 15:00:52

The weird thing about this is that GPs always used to be sent their own set of ATOS forms for Incapacity Benefit assessments. I've sat there in the room while mine filled them in.

I don't know but I suspect it was actually part of the GP contract.

The debate used to be whether consultants should be expected to produce letters for IB/DLA assessments as part of their job, or whether it was optional or chargeable for them.

Now it seems the requirement for ATOS to contact at least the GP has been removed.

2old2beamum Fri 07-Sep-12 15:11:32

That is strange my GP has written 2 for my DD and did not charge confused

OrangeKipper Fri 07-Sep-12 15:21:16

Here we go:

"A patient has asked for a report to support his appeal after having his Incapacity Benefit withdrawn. Do their GP have to provide a report?

"No. GPs, as certifying medical practitioners, have a statutory obligation to provide statements of incapacity to patients on their list and certain information to a healthcare professional working for Atos Healthcare on behalf of DWP when requested. However, under their NHS contract there is no requirement for GPs to provide reports or offer an opinion on incapacity for work to anyone else unless requested to do so by Jobcentre Plus.

"Claimants should contact Jobcentre Plus or the Appeals Service, where appropriate, if they think that further medical evidence is necessary to support their claim or appeal. They should state clearly their reasons for believing that further evidence is necessary.

"If Jobcentre Plus or the Appeals Service consider that further medical evidence is necessary, they will seek it. They will be responsible for paying any fee to the doctor providing the report.

"So NHS GPs are under no obligation to provide such evidence to their patients nor to provide it free of charge. If a GP does not agree to provide additional evidence for their patient then it is a private matter to be resolved between the GP and their patient."

So the GP is only compelled to provide a report when the JobCentre ask for it. If the JobCentre don't ask for one, the patient is at the mercy of what the GP choses.

OrangeKipper Fri 07-Sep-12 15:24:24

And here's the DWP page with rather more info that the above medical committee were quoting from.

Empusa Fri 07-Sep-12 18:05:41

The other problem is, even if your GP will provide a report the JobCentre, the JobCentre may refuse to even acknowledge it. I know that happened to DH, we had reports from the GP, his psychiatrist, and other specialists and they refused to even look at it until we got to the appeal stage.

Talking to other people it seems as though this is pretty normal.

sunshinenanny Sun 23-Sep-12 20:05:30

I have a theory that this caring government is trying to drive people to suicide so they won't have to pay any benefits. These things should be decided on proper medical evidence from doctors who know their patients not by someone ticking boxes for the DWP.

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