Disability activists ask for 2nd opinion from reneging GPs

Morning Star

Tuesday 25 June 2013
by Rory MacKinnon

Disability activists will demand a second opinion from GPs today at a rally outside the British Medical Association’s annual conference.

Up to 100 people are expected to picket the union gathering in Edinburgh over its low-key response to the government’s widely reviled work capability assessments for people on sickness benefits.

The computerised tests, administered by contractor Atos, have been harshly criticised by campaigners and medical professionals – around 40 per cent of those ruled “fit for work” win on appeal, and many others cleared to toil have subsequently died of their illnesses.

Delegates at last year’s conference voted to “demand that the (assessments) should end with immediate effect.”

But campaigners at today’s demonstration say the union has failed to throw its weight behind the campaign.

They said the BMA had declined to encourage GPs to provide patients with further medical evidence in appeals – despite regulations saying people could not be drafted into work with a “substantial risk” to their health.

Demonstrators with the Black Triangle Campaign said today they planned to distribute model letters to delegates demonstrating how GPs could do so.

An association spokesman said the GPs only had to provide a “factual report” of medical records when requested by Department for Work and Pensions “decision-makers.”

“Anything beyond that is at the discretion of the individual GP,” he said.

“It should be for the discretion of the individual GP as to whether they feel comfortable promoting the employment and support allowance to their patients,” he said.

But the Black Triangle Campaign’s John McArdle told the Morning Star the BMA stance was “totally unacceptable.”

“We sympathise 100 per cent – we want to oppose the cuts and condemn this government for scapegoating them.

“But doctors and patients need to stand and fight. In return they can expect our solidarity.

“When they come out with such a statement as ‘all of this work is going to be taking time which should be spent with our patients,’ it’s completely absurd.

“It’s absolutely a matter of life and death,” he said.

The Morning Star