By John Pring
May 10, 2013 4:23 pm
Disabled activists could target the British Medical Association (BMA) with direct action protests after it refused to campaign for the government’s “fitness for work” test to be scrapped, despite an overwhelming vote by its members.
Doctors at the British Medical Association’s (BMA’s) annual representative meeting (ARM) were almost unanimous in voting last June for the organisation to “demand” that the work capability assessment (WCA) – which tests eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits – should end immediately.
The assessment has caused mounting anger among activists and disabled benefit claimants since its introduction in 2008, because of links with relapses, episodes of self-harm, and even suicides and other deaths, among those who have been assessed.
And now, in an open letter, 26 doctors have spoken of their “dismay” at the failure of the BMA’s leadership to do anything “meaningful” to push for the end of the WCA.
The letter says:
“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.”
The BMA claimed this week that it had held “constructive meetings” with the Disability Benefits Consortium and Citizens Advice, and had produced “numerous parliamentary briefings” for MPs and peers “pointing out the flaws with the current system”.
It claimed to have carried out media work to publicise its views, and to have raised the WCA issue directly with ministers.
It also pointed to its submission to the third review of the WCA by Professor Malcolm Harrington.
But a press release it published last September after submitting that response was far weaker than the ARM motion, and merely stated that it was “concerned” that “some of the most vulnerable and weakest in our society are not receiving the support that they need through the ESA”.
Disability News Service (DNS) has seen one BMA parliamentary briefing, published in January 2013 and sent to MPs and peers – although it is not clear how many – which did call for the WCA to end “with immediate effect”, but has not seen any other evidence of BMA attempts to push for the test to be scrapped.
A BMA spokesman said:
“We have said the system needs to be replaced.
“We have put forward serious objections to the problems with this system which our members have asked us to do. We have said this system needs to be fundamentally changed. We feel we have made a huge amount of effort into trying to get those flaws addressed.”
But when asked for a “yes” or “no” as to whether the BMA had put “a huge amount of effort” into calling for the WCA to be scrapped, he declined to provide a “yes” or “no” answer.
The doctors also call on the BMA in their letter to “urgently” make known to “every GP in the country” the existence of two employment and support allowance (ESA) regulations, which they believe could avoid serious damage to the health of thousands of sick and disabled claimants.
The regulations state that a claimant should not be found fit for work (regulation 29), or placed in the work-related activity group (regulation 35), if such a decision would pose “a substantial risk” to their “mental or physical health”.
The 26 doctors say disabled people preparing for an appeal against being found fit for work should ask their GP to fill in the gaps in a short letter, which explains how the ESA decision poses a risk to their patient’s physical or mental health.
The letter warns the BMA that it could be guilty of negligence if it fails to alert GPs to the existence of the regulations.
But the BMA spokesman said:
“Our understanding is that the role of GPs in the process is to provide a factual report based on information contained within the patient’s medical record and that anything beyond that is at the discretion of the individual GP.
“I am unclear on what grounds it could be viewed as negligence as we are not a regulatory body, but an independent trade union.”
John McArdle, a founding member of the user-led campaign group Black Triangle, which devised the core of last year’s BMA motion, said:
“They are disregarding the views of their membership. It is simply not good enough and we are not going to take it.
“We have written letters [to the BMA leadership] and telephoned and we have been completely disregarded. We have been treated with contempt.”
McArdle said that if the BMA failed to pass on the information about the regulations, Black Triangle and other user-led groups would “take direct action against the BMA leadership” in order to “shame them into action”.
“There are 252,000 registered doctors in the country and every one of them needs to know about these regulations.
“We are not going to be fobbed off about this. It is a disgrace that we should have to campaign so hard just to make known the law.”
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- Doctors demand end to ‘fitness for work’ test
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- ‘Fitness for work’ test under fire: GPs say assessment…
17 thoughts on “Doctors’ leaders could face protests over ‘fitness for work’ campaign snub”
well they do get payed by them so would they stand or against is something they don’t want to do jeff3
IMO BMA bosses are in bed with ATOS & the Government, you just cannot get any lower than that.
The BMA is like the Labour Party.
The membership are shouting out telling them what they ought to be doing, but the people at the top think they know better!
Bloody well put, Geoff! #Solidarity !
We need people to help picket the PCS national conference in Brighton on 21 May. Let’s put pressure on PCS to work with us to fight the benefit barbarism destroying so many people’s lives, rather than set the police on those of us who campaign against the Welfare reforms. Please circulate this widely, and invite all your Facebook friends.
Bring it on.
People are dying while these fat cat doctors drag their feet.
here’s an interesting aside from Tanni grey-Thompson
Calling for an end to “gender discrimination”, they say daughters must no longer be excluded from inheriting their father’s title and estate.
Among the signatories are Viscountess Linley, Lord Beaverbrook, Baroness Grey-Thompson …. ”
kinda puts her ‘activism’ in some sort of perspective!!!”
This is totally WRONG and you are on entirely the WRONG track John! The BMA will not get involved in anything deemed to be politically biased and this should be REMOVED from politics as it is exclusively about the welfare of patients.
Regs 29 and 35 should be brought to the attention of the Royal College of General Practice [RCGP] and to all local General Practice Regional Committees [GPCs] and I’d be happy to write on behalf of BT if that can be agreed.
PLEASE do not waste valuable if limited physical and financial resources protesting and taking action against the BMA. We’ve already established that people are exhausted, and broke, so let’s stop all this left wing constant will to ‘protest’ and begin responsible negotiations with people who are concerned with clinical excellence, patient welfare and GP integrity – and leave the BMA to count their paper clips.
LOOK at the responses this type of incorrect assumption has generated… There is NO evidence at all that the BMA ‘are in bed with Atos’ – [wildthing] and these -ve reactions are emotional and not factual.
As for this latest attack against Tanni G-T [jed] you couldn’t be more WRONG! Members of the HOL have many demands on their time and can’t campaign tirelessly for a Bill that’s been thrown out by the Government. Tanni is QUITE RIGHT if you bother to look into the facts. It is unrelated to ordinary people but is significant in the world of titled inheritance, so let’s please keep a sense of perspective.
‘This is totally WRONG and you are on entirely the WRONG track John! The BMA will not get involved in anything deemed to be politically biased and this should be REMOVED from politics as it is exclusively about the welfare of patients.’
Mo, these decisions are made by committee. You are welcome to make comments but please do not be bombastic and patronising on this very public thread! You do not endear yourself by doing so. I am really QUITE annoyed with you! As if you are always RIGHT! Stop it!
“Tanni is QUITE RIGHT if you bother to look into the facts. It is unrelated to ordinary people but is significant in the world of titled inheritance, so let’s please keep a sense of perspective.”
quite, we plebs know our place – the matter of equality for all is very pertinent – however this still shouts some more equal than others – whilst some of us are dying or being made homeless or losing our finances or just being fucking fed up with the focus on the rich and elites of this fucking country – rich on the backs of the poor, entitled because they believe they are better – except if you read the Daily Mail where it’s the disabled and poor who are apparently so entitled they’re having everything taken off them as punishment. FFS.
But when asked for a “yes” or “no” as to whether the BMA had put “a huge amount of effort” into calling for the WCA to be scrapped, he declined to provide a “yes” or “no” answer. well whot would you do when payed by the dwp yes they don’t like the system but wont answer to the government over it ,but we know it causes masses of work more for those doctors has for my house well if they any good parents half to my daughter half to my son unless this government decides if im in a home they charge me for it