The DWP claim that they have now corrected a misleading letter which deliberately discouraged GPs from issuing fit notes to employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants who need them in order to claim benefits.
Back in March we revealed that the text of a standard letter to GPs had been quietly altered by the DWP.
In the past, when a claimant was found capable of work, the DWP sent out a letter to their GP stating that there was no need to issue further fit notes.
But the letter went on to say that the doctor would have to give their patient a new fit note if they appealed against the decision:
“. . . you may have to give your patient new medical statements if:
they decide to appeal against our decision
their condition gets significantly worse
they have a new medical condition."
The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) subsequently called for urgent changes to be made because the letter risked endangering the health of claimants.
At the time the DWP denied that the changes posed any risk to claimants and insisted that they had consulted the RCGP and the British Medical Association about the revised wording of the letter.
Both organisations deny that this is the case.
However, last week Justin Tomlinson, minister for disabled people, responded to a written question from an MP about the issue by claiming:
"The revised version of the ESA65B letter went live from 3rd June 2019. The revised letter states clearly the circumstances in which fit notes are required including to support Employment and Support Allowance appeals, where a claimant’s condition has worsened or if the claimant has developed a new health condition or disability."
It seems then that, after being caught out, the DWP have changed the wording back to that of the original letter, although Benefits and Work has yet to see a copy of the latest document.