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GPs buck fee trend
6:50pm Wednesday 28th August 2013 in News
GP surgeries in Swindon are bucking the national trend by offering free medical evidence to sick and disabled people who want to appeal against their work capability assessments.
Some surgeries in England and Wales are charging up to £115 to assist sick and disabled people in their appeals against the assessments carried out by ATOS, with a number of practices refusing to take medical evidence, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The charity has seen evidence that many doctors do not consider it part of their role to provide free medical evidence for patients in appeals against decisions made by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Without independent medical advice from a GP, many sick and disabled people who may be entitled to support are unable to compile their case to appeal wrong decisions at tribunals.
But the Swindon and District Citizens Advice Bureau says the vast majority of GPs in the area are willing to provide evidence free of charge.
Claire Newport, chief executive of Swindon and District Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “We have had lots of people coming to us recently with appeals, and the number has gone up dramatically. Some weeks we see 10 to 15 people in the space of a week to help with their appeals.
“The majority of GPs in Swindon work well with us, and do not charge for their reports. Some GPs do decide to charge, and we always try to put that across to the client.
“Most GPs in Swindon do not charge and are very sympathetic to their patients.
“A patient can only go to their own GP for that sort of medical evidence, and that evidence is essential to getting a good decision. It is critical that patients are able to get that evidence.”
ATOS, the company responsible for providing the vast majority of medical assessments for people claiming Employment Support Allowance, was last month criticised for poor performance. Incorrect assessments leading to appeals have cost the taxpayer £64m to resolve, with sick and disabled people facing an uphill battle to get a fair outcome.
The chief executive of the charity has warned the practice of charging for independent advice is widespread and a catch 22 for disabled people, many of whom face the prospect of an incorrect assessment by ATOS followed by an extensive appeals process.
A number of CABs have reported that some surgeries are refusing to provide evidence, while some doctors are prepared only to provide templates of letters of support to their patients.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of the Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “Lots of people entitled to Employment Support Allowance are being denied it unfairly.
“Without independent medical evidence in appeals against assessments by the notoriously unreliable ATOS, sick and disabled people are being left to fight against bad decisions with one hand tied behind their back.”
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