Press Release, 17 April 2019
Over 87,000 people have signed Z2K’s petition to #ScraptheLetters. Today, they stand outside the Department for Work in Pensions in protest of the damaging and misleading letters they are sending to GPs stating that their patients do not need a “fit note” anymore because they’ve been found fit for work. This letter is leaving severely ill and disabled claimants unable to obtain Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to which they are entitled pending appeal.
Z2K are handing their petition to Amber Rudd along with a letter demanding immediate withdrawal of the letters.
Doctor – Patient relationship is affected – doctors are forced into acting as benefit assessors
Z2K have heard from doctors who are too scared to speak out: ‘I’m not comfortable speaking about this in public, as my actions and those of colleagues may be seen as “going against Government advice” Dr Lucas* continued, ‘we tend to ignore the DWP letters and, if the patient is appealing, continue to issue sick notes as I do not want them to end up in debt and destitution. To date, no patient has come back to me saying their sick note has been rejected. This is widespread practice amongst GP colleagues too.’ This silencing of doctors is incredibly concerning.
Claimant /patient responses have flooded in:
Eva M said: ‘we appealed against the decision of the DWP to stop my son’s ESA and his GP was sent a letter asking him to stop giving sick certificates whilst asking my son to provide a sick certificate.’ Another claimant, Dawn W said : ’I’ve had it done to me, I won my appeal, the judge was disgusted with DWP.’ Maureen B: ‘I’m signing this as I’ve experienced this first hand. Despite being on medication and in pain, the doctor wouldn’t reissue a doctor’s note despite me being unfit to continue doing my job as the DWP deemed me fit to work, despite the doctor originally saying otherwise, surely your own doctor knows you and your condition better than someone who has only seen you once.’
Raji Hunjan, Chief Executive of Z2K explains: “We are here today to make sure Amber Rudd and the DWP know just how serious this is. Over 87,000 people stand with us against these letters. Doctors are too scared to speak out. Patients / claimants are suffering and continue to suffer as long as these letters are sent out. The letter must be withdrawn with immediate effect.
Hunjan continues: ‘We see this letter as indicative of a much much wider systematic problem with the entire ESA system, which is fundamentally flawed and leaving ill and disabled people with nothing. And it is for this reason that we urge the secretary of state to engage with us and the people affected.’
* To protect the identity of the general practitioner, a false name has been used.