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DWP Sick Note Advice Endangers Patient Health Say GPs

April 30, 2019

The health of vulnerable patients may be being endangered by benefit advice given to GPs by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), doctors have warned.

Medical bodies said they were “deeply concerned” about government letters informing them that they no longer need to issue “fit notes” to refused benefit claimants. 

Issued to doctors since 2017, they raised concerns about the potential impact of the letter, called an ESA65B, on potentially vulnerable patients. 

Experts said the letter fails to make clear that if the claimant is challenging the decision in relation to Employment Support Allowance (ESA), they still need the medical evidence from their doctor.

In a letter to the DWP, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said: “Without a fit note from their GP, claimants who are awaiting the outcome of their appeal will not be able to receive ESA.

“They would therefore have to seek universal credit or jobseekers’ allowance, and subsequently try and meet the work-seeking requirements of those benefits, potentially endangering their health in the process. As such, the college is deeply concerned about the potential impact of this on doctors and their relationships with potentially vulnerable patients.”

The British Medical Association meanwhile said in a separate letter to the Work and Pensions Committee that it would be “helpful to revise the wording” of the ESA65B to “ensure greater clarity”.

signed off by chair Peter Holdren and deputy chair Mark Sanford-Wood, it states: “We believe that DWP should consider consulting with a range of stakeholders, including the BMA, to achieve this aim.”

The correspondence was released by the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, which had asked the RCGP and BMA whether they had agreed to the wording of ESA65B.

The DWP said the medical bodies had agreed to the revised wording of the letter on 4 August 2016.

But the RCGP said there was some “ambiguity” about what was said in the referenced meeting with the DWP, and said it was “deeply concerned” about the guidance.

It comes amid growing concern around the DWP’s work capability assessment, with campaigners and disabled people saying it too often deems sick people fit to work.

Stephen Smith, who made headlines earlier this year when photographs emerged of him emaciated in hospital after he had been deemed “fit for work”, died last week, prompting claims that he and many others had been “let down” by the welfare system.

A DWP spokesperson said “clear guidance” had now been issued to GPs and talks were taking place about a revised version of the ESA65B.

The spokesperson said: “We have regular discussions with the BMA and RCGP to ensure we deliver effective support to disabled people and those with health conditions.

“The wording of this letter was discussed as part of these meetings, as both organisations confirm, as was the release of the final letter. Of course, we recognise the concerns of GPs which is why we are discussing a revised letter with the BMA and RCGP and have issued clear guidance for GPs in the meantime.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 30, 2019 12:08 pm

    Here (again) is the Murdering Abusing Fraudster DWPs ESA65B form letter that they send to their Neglectful Abusing NHS Quacks –

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