Scottish GPs back call to end work capability assessments

Published 29/03/2012 11:30 PM

SCOTTISH GPs are backing a move to end controversial work capability assessment’s (WCSs).

Disability rights group Black Triangle persuaded doctors to back a motion at the Scottish GP Conference last week calling for an end to the computer-based tests on benefit claimants.

The doctors, who represent GPs from across Scotland, voted that the system should be replaced with a more vigorous and safe process which takes into account the needs of long-term sick and disabled patients.

The assessments, run by the private firm Atos, have been roundly criticised after it was discovered that approximately 60 per cent of those who failed the tests had benefits reinstated on appeal.

Doctors have also reported increasing levels of depression and stress directly attributable to the assessments which can mean claimants lose all eligibility for benefits depending on how they score in the test.

Dr Dean Marshall, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said that while the body welcomed some of the rationale for the government’s reform of welfare, the system was highly complex and needed to be simplified to provide more opportunities for those people who are able to work.

“Our patients are very concerned and confused with regards to these assessments,” he said. “Many are in fear of how they will cope with the removal of, or cuts to, their benefits. Evidence appears to suggest that people with serious health conditions are frequently declared fit for work.”

Regarding the welfare reforms that have recently been passed at Westminster, Marshall added: “We must keep an eye on the wider implications of these reforms. A reduction in income may lead to poorer quality of health for individuals and increased health inequalities for our nation as a whole.”

Dr. Stephen Carty who works as a GP in the Leith area of Edinburgh and who is an active member of the Black Triangle campaign said the GPs backing sends “a ray of hope to some of the weakest and most vulnerable in society.”

The GP broke ranks with his profession two years ago to stand up for his patients when he discovered many were being told they were fit for work after passing a number of tests that did not involve consulting medical professionals.

He said: “It sends a clear message to other representative bodies including the General Medical Council of the significant concerns shared by many GPs across the country.”

Black Triangle says is will now focus on lobbying the government and organising demonstrations, and is currently trying to build a database of legal experts willing to donate their time to people trying to fight their corner.

John McArdle, a founding member of group, said: “The scandal of these assessments has gone on far too long. As a grassroots disabled people’s organisation we are over the moon that Scotland’s GPs have spoken out so clearly and unequivocally in their condemnation.

“Our GPs recognise the severe and avoidable damage that is being done to sick and disabled people through this brutal, draconian and profoundly unjust testing regime as they see it every single day. It must be halted now – with immediate effect– before any further harm results and whilst the GMC launches a thorough investigation. They can no longer remain silent. They must act.”

THIRD FORCE NEWS

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