More than 73,000 people have signed a petitition demanding that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stop sending “misleading” letters to GPs.
Welfare Weekly recently reported that the DWP has been sending letters to GPS, instructing them not to support disabled with sick notes while they appeal benefit entitlement decisions.
Now thousands of concerned member of the public have called on the DWP to halt the shameless practice, warning that it threatens doctor-patient confidentiality.
GPs have been advised by the DWP not to provide sick notes (aka ‘fit notes’) to sick and disabled people found ‘fit for work’ following a face-to-face medical assessment for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Campaigners and MPs have called on the DWP to stop sending these letters to GPs, after it emerged that ill and disabled appealing against unfair work capability assessment (WCA) decisions have been pushed into poverty after their GPs refused to provide sick notes.
It has been revealed that DWP ministers ordered changes to the standard-issue letter to remove references that made it clear to GPs they may have to issue a medical statement if their patient wished to appeal against a WCA decision.
However, the DWP say this was not intended to dissuade GPs from issuing ‘fit notes’, which were previously known as sick notes before the UK Government cynically decided to rebrand them.
A new petition says the letters threaten patient relationships with their GPs, and “puts patients at risk of damaging their health further and leaves them in serious financial difficulties”.
The petition includes a case study of a one person who was “too ill to work” but was refused ESA after a letter was sent from the DWP to his doctor without his knowledge.
It continues: “Louis had to rely on food-bank vouchers, went into debt, accrued rent arrears and faced an increased risk of eviction.
“It took moving GPs and relying on new evidence from a clinical psychologist stating how his mental health would deteriorate further if he did not obtain the fit note, and therefore the benefits he needed to survive.”
It concludes: “These letters are sent to the GP of every person after they have been refused ESA – before they’ve finished the appeal process. 88% of our clients win their appeal and are entitled to ESA again.
“It is not for the DWP to interfere with the GP and their patient. Sign the petition today.”