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GPs to be paid £33 per patient to assess eligibility for new disability benefit

GPs will be paid to fill out a new form determining whether patients are eligible for the Government’s new personal independence payment (PIP), a scheme the GPC has warned may ‘harass’ patients with a health condition or disability.

The PIP replaced the disability living allowance this week and GPs will be required to give details of the diagnosis, history, variability, treatment and the impact of the condition on the patients’ life, for which they will be paid £33.50 per form.

But the GPC has voiced concern that patients with long term conditions might be periodically ‘harrassed’ under the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) under the new PIP assessment.

To qualify for the payment, patients must have needed help for three months or more and be likely to need help for the next nine months.

A form detailing the claimants own description of how their condition or disability impacts their life, as well as a factual report from a health professional such as a GP will be sent to assessors at ATOS or Capita. PIP assessors can then either order that a face-to-face consultation by a health professional be carried out, or make a recommendation to the DWP about the claimant’s eligibility without this.

The new PIP assessments, will be run by private contractors ATOS - who also run the Work Capability Assessment scheme.

Payments awarded under PIP, will be reviewed ‘at appropriate intervals depending on how likely it is for the claimant’s condition or impairment to change’, the DWP said.

But Dr John Canning, chair of the GPC’s Professional Fees and Regulation committee and a GP in Middlesbrough voiced concern about patients having to continually ‘prove’ they deserve state support.

He said: ‘We don’t want to see people harassed when they have long term chronic illness. Some people are never going to improve. They have a long term illness and they don’t need to be harassed by the system every month to keep proving they can’t do certain things.’

He added: ‘If they target people who really need it then it may be a good thing. But we know that there are plenty of people who don’t claim when they should do, and need a great deal of persuading to claim. All we hear about is the people who claim when they shouldn’t be.’

The DWP said they introduced the new system as the former Disability Living Allowance system was flawed, with patients receiving benefits for life with no systematic assessment of the impact the condition or disability had on their daily life.

A DWP spokesperson said: ‘The Personal Independence Payment will include a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews - something missing in the current system. This will ensure the billions we spend on the benefit gives more targeted support to those who need it most.’

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