GPs charge disabled up to £130 to appeal fitness-to-work decisions

 

Doctors are charging sick and disabled people up to £130 for medical evidence to appeal decisions about their fitness to work, The Independent has learnt.

NHS GPs are telling patients they will only provide the necessary details to challenge controversial Work Capability Assessments if they pay. Others are refusing to help at all.

Citizens Advice say in many areas GPs are helping with an appeal only if patients pay a fee of between £25 and £130. There are also reports from 15 of its centres that family surgeries are refusing to provide evidence at all.

GPs who refuse to help – or charge increasingly high fees – argue that writing up medical evidence takes up time when they could be helping patients.

But Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Charging sick and disabled people more than £100 for medical evidence beggars belief. This process is clearly failing.”

A lack of evidence from doctors will make it more difficult for people to navigate what experts say is an already “flawed” system. The Work Capability Assessment, which is currently conducted by the private company Atos Healthcare for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has already been beset by criticism.

More than 600,000 of the 1.8 million assessments carried out by Atos since 2009 have been the subject of an appeal, at a cost of £60m. Around a third of the appeals succeeded.

After an investigation by the DWP, which found that two in five of Atos’s written reports were not fit for purpose, the company will no longer have a monopoly to carry out the assessments.

The shadow Employment minister, Stephen Timms, said: “This is further evidence of the Government’s failure to manage the Work Capability Assessment, and it is disabled people who pay the price. The Government must urgently rebuild a system that is fit for purpose.”

In East Staffordshire, many patients are turned away by their GPs when they request support, while others are charged up to £130. Dawn Green head of East Staffordshire CAB, said: “We’ve noticed a massive increase in those asking for help. It seems almost everyone with mental illness gets no score.”

In Wigan, patients have been refused help, or, in some cases, charged up to £115. Four surgeries in Sunderland have refused to provide evidence, while in Wyre Forest, Worcestershire, patients are typically charged between £25 and £40. In Sydenham, south-east London, some surgeries have refused to provide evidence, while others charge up to £40 for letters only two or three lines long.

In north Devon, people can be charged between £50 and £100. In Knowsley, Merseyside, patients are refused help or charged between £45 and £75 for basic evidence. In Plymouth, GPs tell patients they cannot provide the service. Two surgeries in Islington, north London, have refused to provide evidence, while others have charged up to £70.

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association said: “We have GPs across the country whose workload is ultimately increasing because of a fundamentally flawed work capability assessment.”

Atos said yesterday: “It is simply wrong to say that Atos are the reason for successful appeals. We are sorry when we do not meet our own high standards but can reassure that a ‘C’ grade report does not mean the assessment was wrong and there are checks and balances throughout the system so that the correct decision on benefit is made.”

A spokeswoman for the DWP said: “Since 2010 we have considerably improved the process, but anyone who disagrees with the outcome of their assessment can appeal, so it isn’t surprising that a number of people do.

Case study: Jim Grimwood was charged £40 for copies of his medical records

Jim Grimwood, 58, of Wearhead,  Co Durham, had been a computer programmer for 20 years when he was forced to give up work because of his Parkinson’s disease.

I was diagnosed in 2005 but I put up with it for a long time before I had to finish work in 2011. When my medication is working, you can’t tell there’s anything wrong, but I get tired easily, I’m very stiff and I get a lot of muscle pain. The most visible symptom is a tremor in my right arm. When I’m like this I can’t use a keyboard.

The first Atos doctor I saw didn’t know anything about Parkinson’s – he didn’t even recognise the medication I was on. He scored me zero out of 15, with 15 being the most unable to work. They said I should be able to return to work within three months; I couldn’t believe it.

A year later they stopped my benefits and the benefits advice people said I should apply again. The hospital charged me £40 to provide my medical records. I had to pay that out of my pension. In the second assessment in January 2012, they granted me ESA but they said I could consider a return to work in 18 months.

My benefits will be stopped again in November, so I’ll have to go through the same thing again.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

    £21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago