Dr Paul Litchfield, who carried out two independent reviews of the work capability assessment (WCA) has told MPs this month that he was never informed by the DWP about coroners reports or secret DWP reviews of claimant’s deaths.
Dr Litchfield undertook independent reviews of the WCA in 2013 and 2014. He was supposed to be provided with all the relevant information that would allow him to examine how well the WCA was working and in what ways it could be improved.
However, under questioning from the work and pensions committee, Dr Litchfield revealed that he had not been told about two prevention of future death reports issued by coroners in connection with claimants whose deaths were linked to the WCA.
In addition, he was never told about the 49 peer reviews that were carried out in 2014 relating to the deaths of claimants.
When asked if the coroners reports and peer reviews might have influenced his recommendations, Dr Litchfield replied:
“If I had had that evidence available to me, or indeed been told that it was there—because that is the other aspect; you can only ask for stuff if you know it exists—I would certainly have looked at it. On the basis of what it said, I would have decided whether to proceed with further enquiries or not and it might have influenced what I said. I can’t say whether it would have influenced it or not but I certainly would have looked at it and taken it into consideration.”
Had those reports not been kept secret by the DWP, it is possible that Dr Lichfield might have recommended changes which would have prevented some of the deaths of claimants which have taken place in the seven years since his second review.
You can read a transcript of Dr Lichfield’s evidence to the work and pensions committee under oral evidence transcripts.