One GP’s Protest: ‘When Government Policy Abuses the Vulnerable’

First Publisher on 17th March 2012 in One GP’s Protest Blog

Over the past 5 years or so, I have frequently had patients with significant mental health problems being deemed fit by the Atos Healthcare administered system of medical examinations for people on sickness benefit.

I recently had a patient come to me with heightened distress over this. She felt she was doing well, was seeing a psychologist who was helping her fight her considerable psychological difficulties. Then she received a letter deeming her fit for work, and then an invitation to see a ‘Personal Adviser’ at a Jobcentre Plus office about 2 miles away (she has trouble travelling out of the neighbourhood).

I told my patient (let’s call her H.; this is not her name) about the work of Franz Kafka, about vulnerable people getting caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare. I printed out a few paragraphs from Wikipedia on ‘kafkaesque’. She was comforted by this, knowing that someone had described this situation, that she was not entirely on her own in this.

I told her I would provide her with a letter to take to her interview with the ‘Personal Adviser’ the following week. I asked her permission to write this up on this blog. She consented, provided she remained anonymous. I asked her to write a few words about it felt to be on the receiving end of these letters and injunctions.

Here is my letter to the ‘Personal Adviser’:

Sharon(not her name), Jobcentre Plus

Dear Sharon,

I understand that H. is due to meet with you this week.

I think it is important that you be aware that H. suffers from quite significant mental illness in the form of bipolar affective disorder (she was hospitalised two years ago for some time) which at times has psychotic features. She also has chronic depression and anxiety, and panic attacks. She has a sleep disorder, with regular nightmares of abuse she suffered as a child. She is under the care of local psychiatric services, on an ‘Enhanced Care Programme’. She sees her keyworker monthly. She takes antipsychotic medication, mood stabilisers, and antidepressants. She has just finished a course of psychology treatment which she has found very helpful. She also has chronic fatigue syndrome. She struggles to hold things together on a daily basis.

H. has a 22-year-old son with autism. She is his carer. He has high dependency needs.

The DWP seems incapable of assessing people with mental illness intelligently. As a result, a number of patients of mine with significant mental illness are forced to jump through quite inappropriate hoops in order to hang on to their benefits. This system is in itself abusive and worsens their mental health.

I am aware that you are merely doing your job and you have nothing to do with the development of this policy. Please let your superiors know that this lady is struggling to survive and that if you attempt to force her into one of your pigeonholes you risk making her worse.

If you wish to discuss this any further, I can be reached on  Tel……

Yours faithfully,

*

Last night I saw H. again in surgery. She said the Personal Adviser said it was nothing to do with her; she did not make the decisions; she advised H. to appeal; and gave her some documentation and an ‘invitation’ to see someone at A4e, the next hurdle in the thoughtless endurance trek she has to undertake.

She had brought something she had written at my request, about how it felt to be on the receiving end of all this. She said she had difficulty writing it down, so she wrote a poem, she hoped that was OK. She gave me permission to publish her poem, provided she remained anonymous.

Here is the poem:

I need the Lord my saviour,
but you make me feel a failure.
I need love and tenderness,
but all you give me is stress.
I am made to feel like a criminal,
but your knowledge of me is minimal.
I am innocent and free,
but you make me feel guilty.
I try to be good with all my might,
but you think me a parasite.
I need salvation,
but you give me aggravation.
How would you feel, if you were me,
made to feel worthless and lazy.
 
Comments
  • jeffery davies June 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    well atleast she got a good doctor helping her but many havnt got one who helps ,but i liked the bit where advisor slips it in a4e for emma appeal i call it hasnt this woman with her 8million quid extra bonus which should all be taken off her and given to a needy cause like this woman who is more wanting than emma i havent any money shamfull again atos slips by without the kicking out of the country this firm needs jeff3

  • DAVID A SHAW June 22, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    “Only doing their job ” , where have we heard that one before. Trash dishing out more trash on the vulnerable. May those responsible rot in a hell of their own worst nightmares, and may those who are ‘just doing their job’ find themselves on the receiving end of the same trauma they put people like this lady through. Curse them all for as the vulnerable are the victims of the inhumane attitudes of this government right down to the job center decision makers who are simply not fit to make decisions of this nature. While i will defend the vulnerable with every bone in my body, those who are responsible for their suffering i have no hesitation in saying they are trash and until they change their ways will remain so. Innocence is no excuse, and all those carrying out these policies that victimize people who do need this kind of treatment are not innocent, but guilty of abuse of the highest order.

  • rogr June 22, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    I seriously thought that the Nurenberg Defence of “Only following Orders” had been ruled illegal by the International Courst of Justice in 1945 &46. Sadly the DWP appears to stand for the Destruction of Weaker People rather than upholding the ideas of decency and compassion for those in need. Full agreement with David Shaw on this, how many more people will have to take the Third Option in Job Centres before this shameful sort of practice is stopped?

  • Tianney June 23, 2012 at 5:57 am

    We really need more GPs to speak out on behalf of their patients, it is only by bringing our plight to the attention of the mainstream press and GPs can do this. If we all asked our GP to support us by posting their thoughts on how we are being treat it may just start to turn our way. I know that an awful lot of them wont do it but unless we ask we will never know and now is the time to do this while they require our support for their cause, you never know they may just do it.

  • Sharon June 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    …and when they do put you in the support group, they make sure you know that your days are numbered; to be reassessed in 18 months. Rediculous this system is. I am lucky. I had a doctor for my ATOS exam and she recognised the daily struggle I make and recommended I go into the support group but invisible illnesses are hard to prove and half the time doctors don’t write them down exactly what they are, making it harder for us to get the points, merely stating they are anxiety and depression when you suffer social anxiety. I’m glad to see a doctor standing up to them. Maybe others will follow 🙂

  • Alison Murphy June 24, 2012 at 9:32 am

    i sent this to the leveson enquiry. i really do think it is the way we are heading now. it is going to affect many millions of people once all the housing and benefits taxes and cuts hit disabled and able.

    uk gov pitbull attacks its people

    i believe the leveson enquiry does not think the savagery being acted out by this government towards its people is important enough to consider. all the people for it such as the commentator below on the daily mail seem to think nothing much bad will happen as the government wrecks lives.

    These welfare reforms are long overdue – the sooner they are brought in the sooner these lazy scroungers will have to get off their backsides and do some work !
    – Jack flash, unfortunately still in England, 23/6/2012 23:41

    yeah and all the millions and millions of jobs will just materialise out of thin air.

    meanwhile in the real world…. .millions and millions of people will be hit by the tsunamani of cuts and caps being implemented.

    the poor are shafted already, working and not working poor.

    the next level up are next and so on up the levels.

    everyone destroyed by this government, egged on by the rich will have nothing, no homes, no food, no possessions, no clothes. what do you think they will do?.

    i think the civil unrest will be like nothing we have ever seen before.

    i think the people with the resources should be worried that they can defend them against the marauding hordes.

    so thats what people like you want. i hope you enjoy it.

  • jeffery davies June 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    the only thing this goverment wants is to give our money to their freinds and companys our money billions of it whilst they take ours away daily ,wouldnot stopping giving to thse companys and freinds make up our money and then some .but no they like to take it away so their mates can award themselves money bonuses and like some of them 8million reason for it to stop ,no they have no clue these torys but to give it away beggers beliefe jeff3

  • Christina Klein-Bissett June 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    When are we going to start STOPPING this government? The country can come together to celebrate any kind of nonsense…when can we come together to make this insanity stop????? This can not go on any longer, we need to stand up .

  • jeffrey petch-harrison June 27, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    heared on radio 4 tonite on moral maze,we are parked on benifits,what about these army bosses parked on pensions at 55 .. ??? jeff

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