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GP support for benefit claimants is an ‘abuse of NHS resources’, LMC claims

GPs have been advised by LMC leaders not to provide information to support patient appeals against benefits being withdrawn.

Bro Taf LMC has written to all its practices advising them not to provide letters confirming patients care or medical conditions to support their claim for benefits as it is an ‘abuse of NHS resources’.

The LMC said pressure from carers, patients and benefits agencies led to them making the recommendation.

A national crackdown on benefits has resulted in more patients having their claims assessed, and practices having to cope with increasing numbers of forms providing supporting information.

Pulse revealed this week that practices are struggling with a 21% increase in formal requests from the DWP to verify work capability assessments since January.

Contractually, GPs are required to fill out Further Medical Evidence requests from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which inform assessments for benefits.

If a patient wants to appeal a DWP decision at an independent tribunal they can submit any extra evidence that might help their appeal, but this is not a DWP requirement and so GPs are not contractually obliged- or paid- to provide it.

The letter said: ‘GPs have a contract with the NHS to provide general medical services to their patients and are not in a position to administer or police the benefits system.

‘The LMC considers that it is not appropriate for GPs to be asked for letters of support or letters to confirm care needs. GPs are not contracted or resourced to provide this kind of service and making such requests to GPs represents and abuse of NHS resources.’

The LMC also called on practices to be unified in their refusal to provide information to support claims.

It said: ‘GPs need to have a consistent approach to this issue and colleagues who do this issue and colleagues who do this work make it more difficult for others to resist and it spreads the belief with patients and local authorities that GPs are happy to do this non contracted and unfunded work.’

Dr Andrew Mimnagh, former medical secretary of Sefton LMC supported the LMC’s stance. He said: ‘There’s been a massive rise in GPs being asked to fill out forms by patients, carers, charities, benefits agencies. The workload is such a burden it’s in danger of destabiling practices.

‘Letters like this are necessary. It’s in keeping with DWP guidance. The assertion that it’s callous to refuse to support a patient’s claim is misguided. Practices have already provided the information to the DWP once, the DWP has a statutory obligation to ask for all the necessary medical information. The duplication of this is not beneficial to anyone.’

A DWP spokesperson said: ‘A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after careful consideration of all the available evidence. That can include supporting medical evidence from the claimant’s GP or other healthcare professional.

‘GPs have been clear that they do not want to be responsible for making decisions on peoples’ benefit entitlement, which is why we have processes in place to request the appropriate information from GPs to enable us to make those decisions.’