DOCTORS in and around the Burton area are charging up to £130 to help disabled people challenge rulings that they are fit to work, it has been claimed.
East Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) said it has been faced with a raft of complaints from disabled people who say GPs have either refused to provide medical evidence to back up the case, or said they would only do it for a hefty fee.
Those with mental health problems have had particular difficulties in this area, with case workers reporting a rise in the number of cases where people have struggled to appeal against decisions made by Atos Assessments – the company contracted by the government to carry out work capability assessments.
Case worker Fozia Sajid said: “In light of recent benefit changes the number of people appealing Atos Assessments has increased and the need for medical evidence is crucial to overturn many decisions. Is it not cost effective for GPs to request payment as this could cause more debt for our clients leading to increased stress and anxiety which could cause more appointments for an already over-stretched GP surgery.”
A large amount of disabled people have been forced to appeal against their fitness for work, made through what many people believe to be a flawed system. Those deemed fit for work are unable to claim as much benefit and
Atos Assessments previously had a monopoly on carrying out the work, but following a series of issues, that is no longer the case.
Dawn Green, chief executive of the borough’s CAB spoke to The Independent newspaper earlier this week to highlight the issue, which the publication claims has become commonplace around the UK.
She told the newspaper: “We’ve noticed a massive increase in those asking for help. It seems almost everyone with mental illness gets no score.”
Burton MP Andrew Griffiths has written to work and pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith to raise the issue, following discussions with the CAB, and said he plans to raise the issue further.
He told the Mail: “It’s clear that some surgeries are requesting payment to provide written evidence of conditions. I have got great concerns that people on benefits are being forced to pay for information simply to be able to claim the benefits they are entitled to.”
It has not been possible to contact the South Staffordshire Local Medical Committee, which represents GPs in East Staffordshire.