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Independents' Day

GPs asked for additional evidence in a third of benefit claims, show Government figures

Exclusive Additional GP evidence has been requested for around a third of all incapacity and employment benefit claims, show new figures that demonstrate the rising workload of the Government’s austerity policies for practices.

Pulse has obtained figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that show that additional medical evidence was needed in 305,533 incapacity benefit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claims over five months.

The new figures come as a Pulse survey shows that GPs support almost two-thirds of patients after they request help in their appeals against having their benefits withdrawn.

The survey of 449 GPs showed that, on average, they had supported 60% of requests for additional help from patients over the past 12 months. Around 10% of respondents said they had been asked to help patients more than 100 times over that period.

Figures obtained by Pulse under the Freedom of Information Act last year showed a 21% increase in ESA requests to medical professionals – the majority of whom are GPs – on behalf of the Government in the first three months of 2013, compared with the previous year.

Now new figures obtained by Pulse reveal that, between September 2013 and February 2014, doctors were asked for additional medical evidence by DWP contractor Atos for a third of incapacity and ESA claims – some 305,533 cases in total.

A DWP spokesperson told Pulse requests for additional evidence were sent to GPs when face-to-face assessments are ‘clearly unnecessary’.

But GPs warn that the requests come as they cope with rising levels of work from benefit changes, with the pressure for them to support patient appeals becoming intolerable.

Dr Robert Morley, executive secretary of Birmingham LMC said: ‘GPs are being asked to provide specific letters – sometimes appropriately, sometimes not – which can cause difficulties in consultations.

‘These sorts of requests are certainly worse in the past year or two. It’s a combination of the recession generally and the Government’s welfare cuts.’

Dr Andrew Mimnagh, a GP in Sefton, Merseyside, said the additional workload resulting from social problems is becoming ‘ridiculous’.

‘My staff are spending a lot of time on this and a lot of booked appointments turn out to be patients expressing dissatisfaction about their [benefits] claims.’

Despite this figures released by the DWP in November 2013 showed that GP evidence was the deciding factor in only 2.9% of benefits cases.



About the survey: Pulse launched this survey of readers on 21 January 2013, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 28 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on any one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletters, with a prize draw for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey.

As part of the survey, respondents were asked to specify their job title. A small number of non-GPs were screened out to analyse the results for this question. These questions were answered by 449 GPs.

Readers' comments (12)

  • The final line in this article about GP evidence only being a factor 2.9% of cases is misleading. It is a factor in 2.9% of *appeals*, not assessments. Please do not be dissuaded from providing medical evidence for your patients, it is crucial in many, many claims. I wholeheartedly agree that this process is burdensome and time consuming and shouldn't be placing extra pressures on GPs. However, it is the only system that sick and disabled people have to use in order to receive support. Thanks to those GPs who continue to support their patients' benefit claims.

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  • Laura Smith - THIS WORK IS NOT FREE.
    I have commented on this on previous threads.
    In a dire financial climate where general practice is effectively being wound up by HMG, no work will be done for nothing.
    GPs and my secetaries are exceptionally busy doing multiple letters and reports and to keep my business afloat you bet I will be charging for these reports for appeals, and I have done so ever since DWP created this mess.
    Guess what, a nice old lady informed me with a new wad of forms in today's surgery that this is the new system for Blue parking badges aswell!
    I advised, very nicely of course, that no I do not need to do a report, and that otherwise I would charge the going rate ie £100.

    Sorry, not my fault HMG wants to bankrupt GPs.

    You don't get free food from Tesco's.
    You don't call a plumber for nothing.
    So please don't expect GPs to do all this extra work for free.
    And you can spread the word.

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  • Dr Mustapha Tahir

    I will put the request for additional GP evidence as more than 50%.

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  • If there were to be a total withdrawal of Doctor/Medical professional support from claimants it would result in more requests to disclose and copying of complete medical records of the patient for use in any claim. Two sides of A4 paper as opposed to possibly several reams, now there’s a decision no one wants to be forced into.

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  • Anonymous 5:27- copying for which a statutory fee is payableData Protection Act- and can be performed by a non-clinical member of the practice team- lets call that a service delivery advantage then.
    Anonymous 11:57 is correct this is a simple fact that the public do not "value" GP's and object to payment for non nhs professional services.
    Is the subliminal public meme on the NHS the same as the public hold on comercial " reciprocity /gifting" marketing strategies;- " it is free so it must be rubbish?"

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  • A good way for informal industrial action. (I know there are all sorts of legal caveats.) So, don't have a ballot, just spread the word by social media, that we will not do any of this, including the initial reports for DWP, which we have to do for free and are in our contract. They couldn't send us all to prison, nor sue us all.

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  • @Laura Smith

    I for one applaud some of the work ATOS did, just some, in that some of the malingerer's were told they were fit, and that they needed to work.

    There are plenty of those who deserve my support and get the help for appeals they deserve when wrongly penalised. However the ones who are playing the system, and seem fine almost all year, except when it is time for their new 'Sick Note', certainly do not deserve free reports enabling them to remain supported by the state, while others in similar positions work hard for their money.

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  • The article states that the DWP only requests medical evidence where 'face-to-face' assessment is 'clearly unnecessary'. Surely this can be only a very small minority - the way I understand it, most are assessed? If someone is not capable (or deemed necessary) to even undergo an assessment, surely GPs would want to support them?

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  • no, actually!

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