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GPs experiencing rising workload after benefit changes, warns LMC

Practices are being asked to assess patients’ eligibility for benefits when this should be the remit of social care services and care agencies, GP leaders in Scotland have told MSPs.

GPs in Scotland say changes to the benefits system have swamped them with extra work as large numbers of patients request information to confirm their care needs or appeal against decisions.

Glasgow LMC have written to the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee ahead of its discussion tomorrow on the impact on GPs of healthcare reforms.

The LMC said the extra paperwork came from changes to benefits such as housing benefit and the replacement of the Disability Living Allowance.

The changes have had a particular effect in deprived areas, where there are proportionally more patients within the benefit system, the letter states.

The LMC letter says: ‘Many practices have contacted the LMC as they were seeing increasing numbers of patients making appointments with GPs looking for letters of support for benefit appeals and certificates or notes from doctors to confirm various care needs.

‘This continues to further increase GP workload at a time when demand on GPs services is already extremely high.’

It adds: ‘To compound the issue an unprecedented number of patients being turned down for benefits following their medicals has led to a flurry of appeals, and hence yet more consulting time is being taken up by patients requesting letters and also wishing to have their medical symptoms and conditions updated and documented in their case records as evidence.’

Inclusion Scotland, a consortium of disability organisation, has accused GPs of ‘discrimination against disabled people’ for adopting such as stance.

Its own letter to the health and sport committee says: ‘GPs have a duty of care for all their patients to ensure that their health does not decline where it can be prevented. GPs who refuse evidence to patients requesting it are failing them in that duty of care.’

Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of the Scottish GPC is due to give evidence to the committee tomorrow along with Inclusion Scotland director Tressa Burke.