Work Capability Assessments harm patients and should be scrapped, say GPs
Family doctors at the annual GP conference being held today (Wednesday 23 May 2012) in Liverpool have called for an end to the work capability assessment because of the harm it does to vulnerable patients. The doctors, who represent GPs from across the UK, say it should be replaced with a more vigorous and safe process which takes into account the needs of long term sick and disabled patients.
Dr Andrew Holden, a GP from Petersfield in Hampshire, told the conference that the computer-based system was unable to differentiate between people who genuinely need to be on incapacity benefit and those who don’t:
“Since the system was introduced in 2008, people with terminal cancer have been found fit to work, people with mental health problems have complained their condition is not taken seriously and people with complex illnesses say that the tick-box system is not able to cope with the nuances of their problems.
“The computer-based assessments are carried out by a healthcare professional but one not necessarily trained in the field of the patient’s disability, which is particularly important when it comes to mental health issues.”
Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee, said:
“When for”ty percent of appeals against the assessments are successful at tribunal hearings something is clearly very wrong with the system. Being in work is good for people’s overall health and well-being, but GPs are seeing too many patients who genuinely need to be on incapacity benefit coming in very concerned and confused by the system. It’s not fair on these patients but it could also have a wider impact as well – having a lower income may lead to people having a poorer quality of health and could therefore increase health inequalities for our nation as a whole. The government needs to look again at the whole assessment process and replace it with one that is fit for purpose.