GPs condemned the unfairness of the work capability assessment in an article in the current edition of Pulse magazine. However, the text was undermined by prejudiced and scornful comments about claimants left by GPs in comments below the line.
In an article entitled ‘How the benefits clampdown is undermining the GP’s role’ Pulse reveals that over half of 645 GPs responding to a Pulse survey last year said that patients had been refused welfare benefits even though their GP thought they were unable to work.
One GP interviewed by Pulse said ‘I've got patients with Parkinson's disease who can't speak and rely on carers for feeding being told they're fit for work.”
Another GP told the magazine: ‘The Government is using assessments as though there is some sort of objective way to assess these things. I usually tell patients the whole set-up is geared to be superficial, to make them fail. But I say, if you persevere, you will most likely win.’
Yet while the article itself was strongly critical of the DWP and supportive of claimants, GPs commenting below the line were overwhelmingly hostile.
In order to comment, readers need to be registered with the site and provide a valid GMC number, so it is very likely the comments are from genuine GPs.
Some of the comments are just plain offensive: ‘The vast majority on benefits are work shy. Just reinforces the international impression of Brits as lazy slobs.’
Others are more moderate but still question the honesty of many of their patients: ‘In my experience most sick note requests are very questionable but we are pressured into them due to the dr patient relationships and keeping patients happy.’
One GP bemoans the fact that they can’t “tip-off” the DWP any more: ‘Yes there are a few patients who are very deserving and do not qualify for the benefits but the few are very heavily outweighed by the many who would be perfectly able to work but choose not to. As the patients gp it is difficult to refuse when people ask for a sick note particularly as there is no longer an option to 'tip off' the dss that you believe the patient is 'pulling a fast one' without the patient finding out.’
Another seems to despise many of their patients: ‘The public gets what the public wants. And that’s a video based app to issue prescriptions, fit notes, and referral requests, all in the palm of your hand in front of I’m A Celebrity. Get out as soon as you can.’
Many claimants will no doubt hope that this GP, and many others commenting on the article, follow their own advice and get out soon.