GPs struggling to cope with benefit queries, BMA warns

Patient care could be undermined because GPs are struggling to cope with a surge in requests for help with benefit appeals, the BMA will warn the Scottish government today.

GPs struggling to cope with demands for benefit help
GPs struggling to cope with demands for benefit help

LMCs across the UK have warned that stricter benefit rules have led to a surge in workload, with patients asking practices to support appeals against funding cuts.

Scottish GPC chairman Dr Alan McDevitt is due to give evidence to Holyrood’s health and sport committee today about the impact of welfare reforms on GPs.

Glasgow LMC and Birmingham LMC, among others, have produced posters and letters informing patients not to ask GPs to support their appeals. Changes to the disability living allowance and the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ in particular have been highlighted.

Dr McDevitt said: ‘The BMA has been arguing strongly for the benefits system to be altered so that it works effectively, rather than doctors being approached for additional information that puts increased pressure on their workload.

‘There is a real danger that if the number of requests continues to increase there will be a detrimental effect on patient care. BMA representatives would be happy to work with ATOS and the DWP to ensure that the system is improved. GPs are propping up a flawed system and it is time that the DWP acknowledged this and make appropriate readjustments to the system.

‘GPs in many areas are being overwhelmed by the number of patients seeking additional information to support their appeals. GPs did not create this system and many are struggling to cope with the additional demands it is making on them. This is impacting on practice time which would otherwise have been spent on health concerns.

‘But more importantly, the BMA is very concerned about the impact that UK welfare reform legislation is having on the people of Scotland. A reduction in income is likely to lead to poorer quality of health for individuals and increased health inequalities for our nation as a whole.’

A DWP spokeswoman said: ‘GPs have been clear that they do not want to be responsible for making decisions on people’s benefit entitlement.

‘The DWP agrees with this position, but it is also important that we're able to make decisions on an individual’s benefit entitlements with accurate and up to date information and sometimes this will require medical evidence. That is why we have processes in place to request the appropriate information from GPs. We continue to work closely with the BMA to ensure this system works effectively.’

A spokeswoman from ATOS was unavailable to comment at the time of going to press.

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