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Legal threat over GP refusal to support benefit appeals dropped

Exclusive Campaigners have dropped the threat of legal action against LMCs who advised GPs to refuse to provide patients with evidence to support their appeals against their benefits being cut.

Pulse has learnt that the Black Triangle Campaign has decided not to pursue legal action and instead work with the BMA to provide GPs with better advice about how to deal with requests from patients who are facing having their benefits being withdrawn.

Lawyers representing the campaign group were examining 10 cases where individuals may have been disadvantaged or discriminated against by refusals from GPs to provide medical evidence for appeals.

In September Pulse revealed that disability campaign groups, Black Triangle and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), were considering legal action against LMCs for distributing template benefit request refusal letters, which it called ‘staggeringly ignorant’.

The template letters were a response to a 21% increase in requests for GPs to verify work capability since January 2013, after attempts to cut the welfare budget brought thousands of additional patients up for review.

Public Interest Lawyers had taken on the case on behalf of the Black Triangle Campaign, but this action has been stopped after meetings with the BMA last month.

Campaign leaders met with BMA representatives on 10 December, to discuss – among other things - how they could go about reducing the burden that requests for supporting evidence place on GPs, while still protecting those who could be harmed if found fit for work.

At the meeting, the BMA agreed to work on ideas on how to flag the risk of ‘avoidable harm’ for patients who would be vulnerable if found ‘fit to work’ under the Department for Work and Pensions scheme to get people back to work.

John McArdle, head of the Black Triangle campaign group told Pulse that they were ‘sympathetic’ to the problems that requests for supporting evidence posed GPs, who are not paid for the additional work.

When Pulse asked whether the legal challenge had been dropped he said: ‘Yes, [we identified that] working together with the BMA to provide GPs with advice is the best way to address this issue.’

‘We’re just a campaign primarily concerned with harm reduction. So is the BMA, and GPs are as well. This treats the cause rather than the symptoms; it gets to the root of the problem.’

GPC negotiator Dr Dean Marshall said that they had invited suggestions from Black Triangle’s medical advisor, Dr Stephen Carty, about ways GPs could quickly flag up vulnerable patients before they reach the appeals stage.

He told Pulse: ‘[Black Triangle and the BMA] share a lot of the same views, but it’s about making sure that the information that the GP gets at an early stage; one, means people don’t need to get a medical; and two, people [disability assessors] will know the potential consequences of a finding that they’re ‘fit for work’.’

He added: ‘One of the issues is that the forms that GP’s are asked to fill in, aren’t very user friendly. They ask lots of questions that the GP’s don’t have answers too. The argument is going to be around, how do you work out who is at substantial risk, but that’s for the individual GP to decide.’

Readers' comments (20)

  • "patients who would be vulnerable if found ‘fit to work’ under the Department for Work and Pensions scheme to get people back to work."

    Surely this isn't for the GPs to work out and find a solution. If patients feels process from DWP isn't robust enough to correctly identify those who are incapableof work, they should take the issue up with DWP.

    But as usual, they want to take action against the weakest, easily accessible person. I call people who do this bullies.

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  • Vinci Ho

    The important issue here is identifying the real enemy- the common enemy......

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  • In my practice we had a major problem with this a year or 2 ago when a bunch of young lasses from the job centre were telling patients who had their ESA stopped to immediately go and see their GP for a report to support their appeal - they started turning up in droves as emergency appointments!
    I hauled in the manager of that job centre to ask her at a meeting in our practice what the hell she was up to and made my point in no uncertain terms. Denial denial denial. Anyway we managed to reverse the tide by charging this lot £100 per report and, funny, they eventually decided they didn't need it that badly. Problem solved.

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  • £100 per report - nice work if you can get it

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  • >£100 per report - nice work if you can get it
    ---

    See how much 45 mins of a solicitor's time will cost you. And besides, there's nothing to stop you from offering any service you like at any price. It's then up to someone else whether they want to pay for it (or not).

    Claimants are perfectly capable of obtaining a copy of their notes under the DPA and getting someone to conduct an independent assessment. The problem appears to be that they don't want to pay for it.

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  • Re: Claimants are perfectly capable of obtaining a copy of their notes under the DPA and getting someone to conduct an independent assessment. The problem appears to be that they don't want to pay for it.

    How many Claimants could afford to pay for it, or find £100 for a GPs report fee. Freedom comes from choices, opportunity and power. Doctors have so much more of all the above in comparison to Claimants, many of whom are alone, poor and suffer from Mental Illness, if not to start with, they are likely to end up doing so under this cruel regime.

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  • >How many Claimants could afford...

    There isn't anything in your posting which explains why this means that others should work for free or give up their family time for this. Yes, some people are in really difficult positions - certainly. But Tesco doesn't hand out free food, plumbers wouldn't come around at 2pm for free etc etc

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  • As it always would.
    Our patients and their representatives have a clear duty to follow the cabint office policy document in regard to approaches to GP's:-

    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_4003147

    It is still the Governmental policy until recinded and it means that legal aid approval would not be given. The case was always doomed to failure as the onus is on the individual to look elsewhere for restitution without involving their GP.

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  • Anon 10.01

    Were the campaigners solicitors working for free or is it just your expectations that GPs work for free?

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  • If you provide a sick note to a patient does this not mean that, in your opinion they are not fit for work? Doesn't it agrieve you that your opinion is disregarded after some very perfuntory assessments by ATOS/CAPITA?
    To have a blanket policy of charging £100 to assist a patient who you have already deemed to be unfit for work, in your opinion, seems uncaring in the extreme.
    Why do you issue sick notes to people you obviously don't believe in?
    Glad you're not my GP....reason i know this? Mine is only too happy to help the patients he believes in...thank goodness all are not like you. Sadens me a lot.....there but for the grace of god and all that jazz.....

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