GP-patient relationship threatened by welfare reform, warns BMA

Doctor-patient relationships could be compromised by demands on GPs from the welfare benefits system, according to the BMA.

Dr Dean Marshall: pressure on practices (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
Dr Dean Marshall: pressure on practices (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

The doctors’ union said it was continuing to receive reports from GPs of claimants being encouraged by the Department of Work and Pensions or its contractors to directly approach practices for information that GPs should not be required to provide.

The BMA, in a briefing for MPs published ahead of a debate on Thursday in the House of Commons on effects of welfare reform on sick and disabled people, warned that GPs are not occupational health specialists and are unable to make the judgments required.

‘Although GPs are not under a contractual obligation to provide this evidence directly to patients, these requests place GPs in a difficult position that can potentially compromise the doctor-patient relationship,' the BMA said.

It warned the requests were taking up limited GP appointment time inappropriately.

GPC negotiator Dr Dean Marshall said last month that GPs were seeing the effects of changes to the benefits system in their surgeries.

‘We’ve been inundated with people because of the changes to benefits,' he said, ‘and we are seeing the effects on people of benefit cuts.’

The BMA briefing said the work capability assessment process did not adequately assess patients in a fair and proper manner and ‘as a result causes unnecessary distress for claimants’.

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