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LMC leaders plan campaign to encourage GPs to ‘just say no’ to benefit requests

LMC leaders are considering a ‘just say no’ campaign to support practices who refuse to take-on unfunded work, and have already drafted a letter to help them turn down patient requests for support when appealing against their benefits being withdrawn.

The campaign would be designed to back GPs who turn down requests for medical reports from benefit claimants and requests for work from secondary care.

The LMC leaders from Lancashire and Cumbria have already come together to create a template letter for all GP practices to use in the area advising patients against personally asking for help from their GP.

But they are also planning on taking forward a campaign to widen a ‘just say no’ campaign to other areas of unfunded workload at its next meeting, including requests from hospitals and other parts of the NHS and social care.

The campaign comes after GPs complained of spiraling workload from patients requesting supporting information to protect their benefits, and a rising amount of workload from hospitals being dumped on primary care.

Pulse revealed last month that GPs were struggling to cope with 21% rise in requests to provide evidence to verify work capability assessments since January.

The template letter sent to practices advises patients to contact Jobcentre Plus or the appeals service if they need further medical evidence, and allow them to contact their GP if they think more information is needed.

It says: ‘It is not necessary therefore for you to request any extra medical evidence from your GP. Indeed it may slow down or complicate the process.

‘Your GP is very busy seeing patients and unfortunately does not have the time available to complete such reports. Your GP is entitled to charge you for such a report and would not want to burden you with extra costs when they are not necessary.’

This follows a similar letter disseminated to practices by Bro Taf LMC in Wales, which said GPs providing these reports was an ‘abuse of NHS resources’.

Lancashire Coastal LMC chair Dr Stephen Hardwick, who helped write the letter, said: ‘GPs are increasingly pressurised, their daily job is harder. We’re monitored more closely through QOF, our prescribing more closely followed. We’re also having to mop up from other NHS and social care problems.

‘It’s hard for individual GPs to say no, because they want to do what’s best for their patients.  The problem is as that it becomes more frequent, as they bring in the bedroom tax, you don’t have time for anything else.’

‘Lots of GPs do it because they feel it’s their job to support their patients. But there comes a point where it takes such a demand upon your time, it becomes impossible to do the day job. The “just say no” campaign was brought up in response to an increase in requests. It wasn’t welcomed wholeheartedly but we will re-discuss it in the near future.’

He added: ‘So for DSS sickness benefits, we provided an example letter practices could use. It means saying “no-this is not our job”, or “no- that’s not the right request”.

‘I have a ban on providing personal references for accommodation. I’ll do medical reports saying they can’t walk up the stairs, but if they want a report saying “They’re a nice chap”, I say “I don’t live next door to you - we don’t have that kind of relationship”.’

But Dr Jonathan Smith, a member of Cumbria LMC and a GP in the area said he did not agree with the principle of rejecting requests from vulnerable patients.

He said: ‘If patients ask for a report for their appeal then you can claim a fee on the basis of that. My opinion is they should jolly well do it. You get a fee. They’re the most vulnerable. They’re your patients.’