Dear Members and Supporters
On Friday 7th June we were reliably informed by a Glasgow GP that posters effectively saying ‘don’t ask (for a letter from your GP) in the first place‘, in the words of Holyrood Health Committee Deputy Convenor Bob Doris MSP, were taken down in surgeries throughout Greater Glasgow.
The Glasgow Local Medical Committee took this prompt action as soon as it became aware of Black Triangle’s written submission to the Health and Sport Committee the week before the hearing reported below.
The legal issues that raised in our submission encouraged the LMC to reconsider its position. We are now looking forward to entering into productive dialogue with the LMC and BMA Scotland for the mutual benefit and support of both GPs and patients.
Tressa Burke of Glasgow Disability Alliance and Inclusion Scotland with whom we liaised closely (Ref: HS/S4/13/19/1 at 21) in advance of the hearing obliquely referred to our written submission when she told the meeting:
“Fundamental to all this is a breach of human rights, specifically the right to a fair trial. The right of access to a fair hearing, including access to an independent and impartial appeals process in the provision of welfare benefits by a state, is crucial to the realisation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
” … the only thing that literally stands between disabled people and far greater harm, either destitution as a result of the removal of their benefits or serious deterioration in their mental or physical health through being forced to work when they are not fit to do so — is a letter from the GP, and that such a letter is being refused is professionally, legally and morally wrong.”
Tressa also told the meeting the shocking news that:
“Last night, at the housing associations conference in Glasgow, we heard that suicides are up to four a week in Glasgow, and one a week in the east end.”
(Committee Minutes Column 4017-4018)
We understand that GPs are at their wits’ end, as are we and we are extremely grateful to literally hundreds of GPs who have supported us in this initiative and especially to those who have spoken out forcecibly in favour of adopting our initiatives.
It is thanks to them that the BMA carried the motion unanimously to demand that the WCA end “with immediate effect”.
We will never forget this magnificent gesture of solidarity in a society and a UK political system that no longer seems shocked by our fate.
However, we must now go further and turn our words into action.
In all the circumstances, the adoption of our ESA regulations 29 and 35 campaign by General Practice and Primary Care is the only reasonable and logical step towards solving our crisis pending the complete scrapping of the WCA and its replacement with a “rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to the weakest and most vulnerable in society“.
The carnage and tragedy ends here: First in Scotland and then throughout the four corners of the UK.
Finally, we are pleased to report that we have also met with the Convenor of the Welfare Reform Committee, Michael McMahon MSP, who has invited us to forward our submission to the Chief Clerk with a view to the committee forwarding it to the Cabinet of the Scottish Government for intervention in the form of supportive action.
We will report back as soon as these talks are properly underway.
Our struggle continues …
Black Triangle Campaign
By SCOTT MACNAB
Published on 11/06/2013 14:13
GPs will be seen as “lacking compassion” over their refusal to provide support letters for disabled patients who face losing benefits as a result of the overhaul of the welfare system, MSPs warned today.
Doctors in Glasgow are now reconsidering the controversial move after an outcry from vulnerable groups which have been hit by measures like the bedroom tax.
The leader of Scotland’s GPs, Dr Alan McDevitt, told Holyrood’s health committee today they are being overhwelmed by additional work and warned that the situation will damage wider patient care.
GPs must fill out initial forms from Atos, the firm helping implement the changes like the new universal benefit, which set out the fitness of claimants to work.
The row has erupted over additional letters being sought by vulnerable people if they have been ruled fit to work, but argue this is unfair. Doctors say they don’t have the resources to do this. But Tressa Burke, a director and trustee with Inclusion Scotland, slammed the approach from doctors.
“The only thing between disabled people and far greater harm, either through destitution through removal of benefits or serious deterioration in their mental or physical health through being forced to work when they’re not fit to do so, is a letter from their GP,”
she told the committee.
“That this is being refused is wrong – professionally, legally and morally.”
“It seems like a really unfair and unjust punishment that the solution is to just not to provide the evidence.
“Glasgow disabled people are losing out in a devastatuing way with potential consequences for their income, their participation in society and their helath and well-being.”
Ms Burke said the only way that disabled people can challenge decisions against them is for a doctor to provide a letter.
“This is not the right response and we ask that the decision be reversed.
“This will make the situation much, much worse.”
Nationalist Glasgow MSP Bob Doris said posters had been appearing in recent weeks in surgeries in the city urging patients not to even request extra support letters.
“These posters are basically saying don’t ask in the first place,”
Mr Doris continued:
“I have a fundamental concern with that. My constituents will see it as a lack of compassion from some GPs and its a lack of compassion from the very people in their community that they trust the most.
“That seeming lack of passion will be corrosive and erode trust in the people who are the most important people in some of the most deprived communities to help vulnerable people.”
Mr Doris said this is how it will be interpreted among vulnerable groups, but was not his opinion.
Mr McDevitt said the posters have now been removed in response to “negative feedback” to the local medical committee in Glasgow which was behind them.
“They’re reconsidering whether that’s the right response,”
“The problem still remains should everyone get an additional report or should only some people when I decide to grant them that favour.”