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Tory plans to coerce patients into treatment could turn GPs into 'probation officers'

Conservative Party proposals to reduce benefits for obese patients and patients with addictions who refuse treatment could lead to GPs becoming ‘probation officers’ and ‘inspectors’, GP leaders warn.

The manifesto, released this week, states that patients with ‘long-term, yet treatable conditions’, including drug and alcohol addiction or obesity could have their benefits reduced.

But GPs are concerned that they would be required to turn patients in to the Department for Work and Pensions, which administers disability and ill health benefits.

The Conservative Party would not elaborate on the plans, but said the eventual course of action would be based on findings of a review by Professor Dame Carol Black, a senior Government adviser on health, who will examine how best to get people with treatable conditions back into work.

The Conservative Party manifesto states: ‘We will review how best to support those suffering from long-term yet treatable conditions such as drug or alcohol addiction, or obesity, back into work.

‘People who might benefit from treatment should get the medical help they need so they can return to work. If they refuse recommended treatment we will review whether their benefits should be reduced.’

But former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada, who has a special interest in addiction, said the policy would adversely affect doctor/patient relationships.

She said: ‘It would mean that GPs have to dob patients in. We will become probation officers rather than advocates for patients.

‘There is an assumption here that people on benefits are bad people. People with addictions often have quite a long line of psychological issues and they do need treatment – but compulsion is a step too far.’

Dr Kailash Chand, deputy chair of the BMA, speaking in a personal capacity, said the idea was ‘appalling’.

He said: ‘It means GPs will have a role as a kind of inspector. It will also make GPs’ workload even heavier because of the reporting, but also because if a person has benefits taken away it could affect their health and they will be coming to see the GP even more than before.’

Glasgow GP Dr Margaret McCartney, who has an interest in evidence-based medicine, has also criticised the plans.

She said in a blog addressed to David Cameron and health secretary Jeremy Hunt: ‘People whose obesity prevents them from working usually have complex, difficult problems. Neither is addiction a choice. Will you force doctors to tell the Department for Work and Pensions?’

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: ‘As the manifesto makes clear, the details of this proposal will be subject to a review under a new Conservative government.’

Readers' comments (17)

  • Two fingers rampant to Mr Ca'moron'.

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  • To what extent can obesity currently be considered a treatable condition though?

    Cochrane meta-analysis of lifestyle and exercise trials in pre-diabetes showed very small benefit from interventions.

    Results from orlistat are okay short term but I don't think there's much evidence re maintaining any weight loss.

    Bariatric surgery works better in the long term but is largely unavailable.

    I don't doubt that obesity will become a more treatable condition as more research is done. But I'm not sure we're there yet.

    (But I'm no expert. Maybe there's great data that I'm just not aware of.)

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  • Vinci Ho

    Ha Ha Ha Ha
    they are f***ing desparate ,aren't they?
    Darth Vader now has got a middle name 'Chicken' after the supposed to be seven kingdoms(inspired from Game of Thrones) political debate the other night.If you read some of the comments in social media. The Tories are really panicking.........

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  • Vinci Ho

    not a bad name.not a bad name,heh?

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  • Not to worry over this as the Tories have no chance of forming a government .

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  • Let's hope for coalition that is so hamstrung that they can't foist any more daft ideas on the health service.

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  • Agree, they're history. Am certain of it.

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  • This really has to be a red line issue. The next thing will be with all the data sharing that is being rolled out, the Dept of Work and Pensions will be given direct access to the patient's clinical records and the concept of confidentiality will cease. The Tories truly are vicious and evil.

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  • Carol Black and Co. are just shameless.....One big problem - presumably those who are are willing to work for this rubbish will need to be qualified.what will their qualifications be?..those in receipt of it will need to be told. Any professional body is obliged to have a code of ethics.this will breack any of the existing ones.....what redress will recipients have if inevitably something goes wrong with the 'relationship' Never thought the UK would creep so low. What by the way are they going to do to hurt those who do not claim welfare benefits but still use the NHS

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  • Sorry to buck the trend - but I have a problem with giving out benefits to alcoholics and drug addicts - essentially paying for them to remain semi-comatose at tax payers expense - funding their lifestyles.

    I fully support and encourage any addict who wants to stop, and as long as they are engaging with drug and alcohol services have no problem signing them off to allow them to focus fully on their recovery, and return towards being productive members of society.

    Obesity is not a reason to be signed off, unless morbidly obese - upon which point bariatric surgery is indicated, then they need time for their recovery too.

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