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GP support for benefit claimants is an 'abuse of NHS resources', LMC claims

GPs have been advised by LMC leaders not to provide information to support patient appeals against benefits being withdrawn.

Bro Taf LMC has written to all its practices advising them not to provide letters confirming patients care or medical conditions to support their claim for benefits as it is an ‘abuse of NHS resources’.

The LMC said pressure from carers, patients and benefits agencies led to them making the recommendation.

A national crackdown on benefits has resulted in more patients having their claims assessed, and practices having to cope with increasing numbers of forms providing supporting information.

Pulse revealed this week that practices are struggling with a 21% increase in formal requests from the DWP to verify work capability assessments since January.

Contractually, GPs are required to fill out Further Medical Evidence requests from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which inform assessments for benefits.

If a patient wants to appeal a DWP decision at an independent tribunal they can submit any extra evidence that might help their appeal, but this is not a DWP requirement and so GPs are not contractually obliged- or paid- to provide it.

The letter said: ‘GPs have a contract with the NHS to provide general medical services to their patients and are not in a position to administer or police the benefits system.

‘The LMC considers that it is not appropriate for GPs to be asked for letters of support or letters to confirm care needs. GPs are not contracted or resourced to provide this kind of service and making such requests to GPs represents and abuse of NHS resources.’

The LMC also called on practices to be unified in their refusal to provide information to support claims.

It said: ‘GPs need to have a consistent approach to this issue and colleagues who do this issue and colleagues who do this work make it more difficult for others to resist and it spreads the belief with patients and local authorities that GPs are happy to do this non contracted and unfunded work.’

Dr Andrew Mimnagh, former medical secretary of Sefton LMC supported the LMC’s stance. He said: ‘There’s been a massive rise in GPs being asked to fill out forms by patients, carers, charities, benefits agencies. The workload is such a burden it’s in danger of destabiling practices.

‘Letters like this are necessary. It’s in keeping with DWP guidance. The assertion that it’s callous to refuse to support a patient’s claim is misguided. Practices have already provided the information to the DWP once, the DWP has a statutory obligation to ask for all the necessary medical information. The duplication of this is not beneficial to anyone.’

A DWP spokesperson said: ‘A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after careful consideration of all the available evidence. That can include supporting medical evidence from the claimant’s GP or other healthcare professional.

‘GPs have been clear that they do not want to be responsible for making decisions on peoples’ benefit entitlement, which is why we have processes in place to request the appropriate information from GPs to enable us to make those decisions.’

Readers' comments (8)

  • Good learning point:"If a patient wants to appeal a DWP decision at an independent tribunal they can submit any extra evidence that might help their appeal, but THIS IS NOT A DWP requirement and so GPs are NOT contractually obliged- or paid- to provide it."

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  • As someone who has been involved in supporting claimants in making initial claims it is sadly my experience that 2out of 3 of medical submissions are not providing enough information to allow the DWP to assess the claim, hence the reason for, I believe, the need for appeals. A simple two line statement of diagnoses is no help to the DWP. Certainly those appeal docs I have seen which succeeded had been the result of eventually more explicatory reports. I support the LMC stance - provided the profession does the job properly in the first place

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  • I totally agree with the LMC.I have a long term Neurological condition and when I receive my forms to fill out for my disability benefit,I make sure I answer every single relevant question,( in as much detail as possible ),and send as much information about my disability..ie..copies of letters from consultants,medication I am on along with the names of every consultant that is treating me.
    I feel very strongly that our GP's have enough to do without being tied up with things that most people are quite capable of doing themselves.

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  • Why dont the WDP tell the gov to stop us giving out sick/fitnotes? I am tired of refusing fitnotes for people who dont need time off.

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  • totally agree with Ian Holliday, a two line statement giving basic information and the name of an illness is not enough. DWP insist on information on how the illness affects your day to day living, so Drs need to complete in full how the illness affects the patient not just a latin name in clinical terminology

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  • Do you not think that the assessments completed by ATOS on behalf of the DWP are mostly incorrect and unfair. It appears that medical evidence supplied by the GP is mostly ignored. The outcome are many appeals and gathering of medical evidence from the GP. I represent Armed Forces Veterans, many have been treated unfairly in this process. The GP is the only person veterans can turn to to gather medical evidence on their condition. I have been presented with many cases where the veterans consultant and the GP's evidence has been ignored and a so called health care professional has written a negative report about the veteran. So, until ATOS and the DWP start to complete fair assessments this problem will continue. Can I suggest that the GMC ask the DWP to get the ATOS .....so called Health Care Professional in line and do their job fairly and correctly that would assist GP's and the veterans. Tony Clatworthy. The Veterans Party.

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  • Anonymous posted the following:
    Good learning point:"If a patient wants to appeal a DWP decision at an independent tribunal they can submit any extra evidence that might help their appeal, but THIS IS NOT A DWP requirement and so GPs are NOT contractually obliged- or paid- to provide it."

    I would make the comment that a GP has a duty of care to ensure his/her patient is not put into a position that forces the patient to make their condition worse and therefore take up even more time of the hard pressed GP. The easy thing to do is get the DWP to make ATOS give fair assessment reports. Tony C. (I promise not to post about this again ....honest)

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  • My practice send a PMA type report and copies of hospital letters which together are quite comprehensive - it makes no difference to the number of appeals.

    Being ill or having a disability does not mean you are unfit for some type of work, as the paralympians have so admirably proved.

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