THE body which represents GPs in East Staffordshire has defended allegations that doctors have requested payment to help the disabled fight fitness to work decisions.
The Mail reported yesterday that some GPs in the area were charging up to £130 for medical evidence to back up appeals against unfair work capability assessments organised by the government’s Department for Work and Pensions. Other surgeries simply refuse to provide the information.
East Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has criticised the charges, saying they force stress and anxiety on vulnerable people, but the South Staffordshire Local Medical Committee said it had been forced to take the stance because of the huge amount of appeals it was being asked to deal with.
The organisation’s secretary Dr David Dickson told the Mail: “The GPs are just overwhelmed. This is something that has been forced on us and it is not something of our making. It’s because of the mess of Atos (the company which has carried out assessments) that our patients are being made to suffer and they turn to us as a last resort. We didn’t make this mess and we are not funded to make extra reports.
“We feel very sorry for these people, but we have been put in a very difficult position.”
When patients request information, they are given a letter, which says GPs are unable to provide the information as it is ‘not appropriate’ and the surgeries did not have the resources to do so, That is why some of them have to charge, Dr Dickson said.
Atos initially had the monopoly for carrying out work capability assessments, but following a raft of flawed decisions, that is no longer the case.
Dr Dickson said he hoped this would improve the situation and take the pressure off both patients and GPs.
He said: “They need to look at the system they have used for assessing patients’ claims and look at the processes so they can base it on the information they already have.”