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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Dr Simon Parton: 'There has been a sea-change with benefit requests in south London'

Dr Simon Parton, chair of Lewisham LMC has seen austerity take grip in the area his practice serves

The recession impacts on general practice in two ways: those patients who tend not to attend and just get worse and worse and then attend in crisis and those patients who attend more frequently with stress or anxiety of physical symptoms.

There are some [patients] who can’t afford their prescriptions for whom it´s a simple choice between that or getting some food.

There has been a sea change in south London with more and more requests for letters, reports and medical certificates.

The problem is with patients coming in to get letters that aren’t really necessary - such as those appealing over benefits -  is that they are taking up appointments that could be used by the increasing numbers of patients with genuine medical needs.

Dr Simon Parton is chair of Lewisham LMC

Readers' comments (6)

  • 'The problem is with patients coming in to get letters that aren’t really necessary - such as those appealing over benefits - is that they are taking up appointments that could be used by the increasing numbers of patients with genuine medical needs.'

    The Benefits system requires claimants have those 'letters', regrettably they ARE necessary. The patient/claimant will only get benefit with a genuine medical health problem verified by a doctor.
    I appreciate that colleagues maybe irritated by the extra work but it is disingenuous to claim that there is a difference between claimants for benefit and those with health problems: they are one and the same.

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  • 9:14am
    If the GP has already verified the health problem and the DWP have decided they aren't eligible then thats that. If the patient want to appeal then they can . . but it isn't the GPs job to ensure their appeal is a success.

    We have finite resources and it you are writing lengthy appeal letters for the convenience of benefit claimants then you cant see the 1 year old child waiting outside with a rash who might have meningitis, or the elderly lady who is confused and might end up in hospital if she isn't treated for her UTI.

    we have a duty of care to everyone not just benefit claimants and we need to prioritise and triage just as they do in A&E. we don't live a perfect world with limitless funding - you need to get real - we cant do everything for everyone. There are other people who also need our help - not just people who feel they are being treated unfairly by the DWP

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  • The problem with the "no letters" approach is that poverty, hardship, cold, hunger and extreme stress have a significant impact on a person's health. It's important that blame is properly apportioned; people with chronic illnesses are not to blame for inept, callous Government policies that are unravelling the social security safety net.

    The huge pressure on GP's, from all sides, is to be deplored, but so is the pressure on people for whom paid work is just not a viable option. It's a horrible situation for everyone and there are no "easy answers".

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  • No there is an easy answer and that is for GP's to stop doing letters and for government depts to pay and organise their own assessments. Quite simple really

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  • What about those with mental health or long term chronic physical illnesses, being forced to work, because they didn't get their ESA? Do you think there will be a satisfactory outcome for someone who is not well enough to work, and has their benefits stripped? I think you will be seeing them very soon, and...they will be genuinely unwell.

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  • Or you might never see them again, because they have joined the estimated 600 or so who are dead (finding that option preferable to homelessnesss and starvation)
    And why are sick children or old ladies more deserving of sympathy than people who are just destitute and terrified?

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