GPs across Britain look set to call on the government to abandon its much-criticised “​fitness for work”​ tests, giving a huge boost to disabled activists who have fought for them to be scrapped.

The work capability assessment (WCA), which tests disabled people’​s eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits, has been the subject of huge controversy since its introduction in 2008 by the Labour government.

The tests are carried out by healthcare professionals –​ including doctors –​ working for Atos Healthcare, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

But GPs are set to vote at their annual conference in Liverpool next week on a motion that calls on the government to scrap the tests.

They will be asked to agree that the “​inadequate computer-based assessments”​ have “​little regard to the nature or complexity of the needs of long-term sick and disabled persons”​, and should end “​with immediate effect”​ and be replaced with a “​rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm”​ to disabled people.

Dr Stephen Carty, medical adviser to the Scottish-based campaign group Black Triangle, who tabled the motion at the conference, said he hoped a vote in favour would “​apply pressure on the governmen​t”​.

He said: “​I want the WCA in its present form to end with immediate effect. There are not sufficient safeguards in the present system to prevent avoidable harm [to disabled claimants​].”​

Dr Carty, a GP in Leith, on the edge of Edinburgh, tabled an identical motion at the British Medical Association’​s (BMA’​s) annual conference of Scottish GPs in March, where it was overwhelmingly approved.

If the motion is passed next week, it will become policy of the BMA’​s GP committee, which negotiates with the government on behalf of GPs and would be expected to push for the WCA to be scrapped.

Dr Carty said he hoped the committee would “​negotiate in the hardest terms”​ with the DWP over the WCA.

The motion is also set to be debated at the BMA’​s annual conference for all doctors, to be held next month. If it was approved at that meeting, the motion would become BMA-wide policy.

A DWP spokesman said: “​We clearly don’​t agree that the WCA should be scrapped.

“​The WCA was developed in close consultation with experts and disability organisations and we are continually working to make sure it is fair and effective.

“​That is why we are implementing recommendations made by our independent reviewer, Professor Malcolm Harrington, and want to keep improving the WCA.”​

He said the WCA was “​an important part of reforming incapacity benefits, a system which was widely accepted as being in need of reform”​.

News provided by John Pring at


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