GPs to predict suicide risk to patients who lose benefit

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The Independent Online
Family doctors are being asked to predict whether patients would be likely to commit suicide if their sickness benefit were stopped.

A new form, issued by the Department of Social Security's Benefits Agency, asks GPs to say whether there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of their patient if they were found fit for work and benefit were terminated. "For example, risk of suicide or threat of harm to others", the form says.

The British Medical Association is advising GPs not to fill in that section of the form, since it requires them to give an opinion, rather than provide information. Dr Peter Holden, deputy chairman of the association's private practice and professional fees' committee, said: "Doctors are obliged to give sickness certificates, but these are statements of fact, not prognostication. GPs should not speculate, prognosticate or give an opinion."