Leading doctors protest at ‘cruel’ disability assessments ~ Letter

Black Triangle Fist Black with Silver Lining


Black Triangle Campaign Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights

1.  Doctors’ Letter
On 24th June last year at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) doctors from every discipline voted overwhelmingly to demand that the DWP-Atos Work Capability Assessment end ‘with immediate effect’. 
Through their Medical Adviser, the patient-led Black Triangle disability rights campaign originated the motion which became BMA national policy. Part (iii) of the ARM motion called upon the BMA to engage with disability groups to change public policy. To date, the only “official” communication their campaign has received has been a short statement via Facebook. 
As doctors on the front line witnessing daily the enormous avoidable suffering of many of our most vulnerable patients caught up in this Kafkaesque system of ‘disability assessment’, we find this failure to meaningfully engage unacceptable. More critically, we fully share in the dismay with which sick and/or disabled people have greeted the failure of the BMA’s leadership to give any meaningful effect to the unanimous wishes of its members: that this dreadful assessment régime should be immediately terminated.  
The GMC’s own publication ‘Good Medical Practice’ states that:
‘… a doctor must (overriding duty or principle) take prompt action if he feels that “patient safety is or may be seriously compromised by inadequate… policies or systems.’
ESA Regulations (2013) 29 & 35 deal with flagging up a substantial risk of harm to patients if they were to be found ‘fit for work’ or to have ‘limited capability for work’ and placed in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) where:
‘the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and, by reasons of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work.’
Regrettably, it remains the case that only DWP and ATOS staff are aware of these regulations whilst GPs remain ignorant of their existence and those performing the WCA and DWP Decision Makers continue to make complex risk assessments based on grossly inadequate patient information.
Until the current system is entirely revised, there remains no safety protocol for the assessment of risk and the avoidance of harm to patients. There are no formal reporting mechanisms for GPs to report significant adverse events such as self-harm and suicides which many of us have witnessed.
Black Triangle have led the way in campaigning for the uptake of Regulations 29 and 35 and their legal Counsel has advised that they should be applied in every case where harm would be more likely than not to occur as a result of erroneous DWP decisions regarding patients’ fitness for work.
We are also fully aware of the fact that numerous conflicts of interest exist between the ethical versus contractual duties placed upon GPs arising out of the DWP-Atos contract. In balancing a doctor’s duty of care to provide supporting information for Tribunal appeals and contractual conflicts with the DWP over the issue of fees and workloads, we submit that the only ethical solution must be the one that causes the least harm to patients. 
Black Triangle’s simple campaign for the appropriate application of these regulations utilising one side of A4 has proved highly efficacious in this respect. It has saved General Practitioners a substantial amount of time and expense and has meant that unnecessary, costly and stressful tribunal appeal hearings have been rightly avoided.  
We now call upon the BMA leadership to urgently publicise and make known to every GP in the country the existence and lawful application of these regulations without any further delay in order to prevent further avoidable harm to our patients. Any failure to do so would in our opinion amount to negligence.
Dr Stephen M. Carty, GP and Medical Advisor, Black Triangle Campaign.
Dr John Budd, GP Edinburgh Access Practice 
Dr Roy Robertson, GP Muirhouse, Honorary Clinical Reader
Dr Ian McKay, GP Rose Garden Medical Practice, Leith
Dr Oliver Aldridge, Edinburgh
Dr Guy Johnson, GP Sighthill Health Centre, Edinburgh
Dr Helga Rhein GP, Sighthill Health Centre, Edinburgh
Dr Elizabeth Morton, GP Challenging Behaviour Practice, Edinburgh
Dr Kate Burton, Public Health Practitioner 
Dr Margaret Craig, GP, Allander Surgery, Possilpark, Glasgow
Dr Nick Treadgold, GP, Pollok Health Centre, Glasgow
Dr Christine Grieve, GP Drumchapel Health Centre Glasgow
Dr Chris Johnstone, GP Paisley
Dr Donald MacIntyre Consultant Psychiatrist Edinburgh
Dr Sarah Houston GP
Dr Ros Wight GP
Dr Robert Young, Glasgow
Dr Nora Murray-Cavanagh GP Medical Education Fellow
Dr David Nicholl, Consultant Neurologist, Birmingham
Dr Jonathon Tomlinson, GP The Lawson Practice N1 5HZ
Dr Anita Roy, GP, Yorkshire
Dr George Farrelly, GP, London
Dr Peter English, Consultant, London
Dr Robert Cheeseman, Ophthalmology Registrar, Liverpool
Dr Ray Noble, Medical Ethicist, UCL Institute for Women’s Health
Dr Margaret McCartney, GP , Glasgow 
2. Supporting Letter from Trade Unions and Civil Society
As trade unionists, organisations and campaigners from across civil society who collectively represent millions of citizens we write in support of the letter by doctors in the British Medical Association about work capability assessments.
We firmly believe the current assessment régime is unfit for purpose and poses a real risk to the health and lives of disabled people and those with life threatening conditions. This is because the government’s regulations, which ask whether substantial risk or harm would be caused if the claimants are found ‘fit for work’ or with limited capacity for work, are not being applied consistently.
Information obtained through freedom of information requests shows that between January and August 2011, 1,100 claimants died after they were put in the work-related activity group – the equivalent of 30 deaths a week.
We are hopeful for a successful outcome to discussions between disabled people’s organisations and the BMA, following its conference decision last year to call for the current assessment régime to be scrapped.
We send our solidarity to these groups and the BMA and hope you will join us in a united campaign to bring an end to the disgraceful treatment of ill and disabled people.
John McArdle, David Churchley and Dr. Stephen M. Carty Black Triangle Campaign
Linda Burnip Disabled People Against Cuts DPAC
Mark Serwotka General Secretary Public and Commercial Services Union PCS
Len McCluskey General Secretary Unite the Union
Christine Blower, General Secretary National Union of Teachers NUT
Bob Monks, General Secretary of United Road Transport Union URTU
Sally Hunt, General Secretary of University and College Union UCU
Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary National Union of Journalists
Phil Gray, Chief Executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
Richard Evans, Chief Executive Officer  Society of Radiographers
Bill Scott, Manager, Inclusion Scotland
Gordon McFadden, Policy Director, Limbcare
Dr Simon Duffy, The Centre for Welfare Reform
Dan Moreton, Social Work Action Network (SWAN) and SWAN (London)
Mary Olaniyi Coordinator/Family Adviser Lewisham Mencap
John McDonnell MP (Lab, Hayes and Harlington)
Deborah King Co-founder Disability Politics UK
Paul Smith – Founder Atos Victims Group
John Burgess Branch Secretary Barnet UNISON
Gill MacDonald Psychiatric Nurse Lothian NHS

41 thoughts on “Leading doctors protest at ‘cruel’ disability assessments ~ Letter

  1. Margaret says:

    I recently asked my GP for a supporting letter and gave her your excellent guidelines on how to phrase such a letter mentioning regulations 25 and 31. She was very supportive and said that she would. I am now terrified that she will not be able do so due to the increased number of requests for supporting letters. I also felt really bad having to ask her to do this as she has provided me with a letter before on two past occasions when I had to appeal a decision. I won both of these appeals. I am now having to start the whole process over again.
    I also spoke to my Welfare Benefits Officer on Friday who told me I would have no chance of being put into the Support Group unless I had a letter from my GP.
    This makes the whole outcome of my application totally reliant on having a GP with enough time and understanding to help me.

  2. wunnell says:

    shows what little notice is taken of them:( and our local surgery is staffed with locums, so what hope have we of getting a doctor who knows us?

    1. GEOFF REYNOLDS says:

      I agree with you entirely. My doctors, who treated me have both retired and now our local surgery is full of locums who seem to leave and be restocked all the time.
      If you rang for an appointment, you would be told no vacancies, ring back tomorrow….. This can go on and on and you might not be seen for a fortnight.

      Eventually, when you do get in, they have no inclination of who you are or your problems, other than a glance at your computerised records. You might as well be in conference with a stranger!

      Its a giant game of DWP entrapment where they try to close all the exits…………

      The doctor is under pressure to refrain from issuing medical certificates whilst you are under pressure to present one. “The entire system is corrupt”.

      What makes me so angry is that i have had correspondence, in the past, from the DWP that states that i no longer require sick notes due to the nature of my incapacity, yet due to an ATOS miracle, now need them.

      I have not been to pester my doctor and have appealed.
      My money was stopped in november last year and i will press on regardless, knowing i am the victim of a misguided witch hunt……….

  3. steve davies says:

    In my opinion the time of writing letters and verbal assaults are long time over. There needs to be a major rethink ( in camera ) of the methods and systems that this attack on disabled is opposed. A large fighting fund is required and the employment of QCs , Barristers, Senior Consultants and GPs to legally and professionally challenge through our legal and the EU courts. Talking is useless , direct action is required

  4. Nicola says:

    My son is suicidal after been refused dla and ESA , the police have been out concerned for his safety , he has nil income and no benefits , he suffers with symptoms of aspergers and ADHD anxiety and depression . His doctors sick notes are been if ignored . Please help he is mentally unstable and 21 now .

  5. ireallymeanthis says:

    Well I gave your drafted letter, with notes about regs 29 & 35, to my GP . She said she’d consider it and call me back.
    I was invited in to pick up a package, which turned out to consist of the original documents plus a standard letter explaining how this isn’t the GP’s business.
    Things seem pretty hopeless.

  6. Joseph Mccaffery says:

    I think a day will come soon that will point to one person’s idea of saving money (maybe even someone of the once Colonies even, a man who knows how to manipulate,, Who knows eh)point being a lot of times after the wind changes and maybe even the need of a scapegoat Is needed,, point being it’ll probably come down to this one person choice to manipulate certain truth’s the likes of which down with statistic’s as the (blatant) lie of fraud later put down at only 0.5%, later on now a known fact but when said caused furore but not the same reaction when proved otherwise by that double-edged sword who control all ‘media’,, hopefully it’ll come to them who lie soon cos’ there’s nothing we Brit’s love is creating our own underdog to support..!?

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