GPs have warned there is a “real danger” that if the number of requests connected to UK welfare changes continues to increase “there will be a detrimental effect for patients”.
Parliamentarians have raised concerns about workload as GPs try to cope with growing demand for evidence for benefits appeals while trying to do the best for their patients – with Scottish Health and Wellbeing Secretary Alex Neil this week warning that some of the most vulnerable people in our communities are at risk.
In answer to a Parliamentary Question from Stuart McMillan earlier this week, Mr Neil made clear that “challenges to the welfare system could reduce benefit expenditure in Scotland by more than £4.5 billion in the five years to 2015, impacting on some of the most vulnerable in our communities, including women, children and disabled people.”
McMillan raised the issue following warnings from the BMA, with Helen Reilly, BMA Scotland Public Affairs Officer, making clear in a recent letter that: “There is a real danger that is the number of requests continues to increase there will be a detrimental effect for patients.
“Anecdotal evidence from our members suggests that in some areas such appointments can take up a significant amount of surgery time. For example, one GP told us that he had three patients make appointments to discuss benefits appeals in a morning surgery.
“In addition, the effect on our patients is also an area of concern. Patients are very concerned and confused about these assessments and many are in fear of how they will cope with the removal of, or cuts to, their benefits.”
MSP Stuart McMillan, who raised the issue with BMA Scotland, said: “It is extremely concerning to hear GPs are seeing a ‘significant rise’ in requests connected to welfare reform. Doctors being approached for additional information that puts increased pressure on their workload.
“The real worry is, as BMA Scotland has outlined, that if the number of requests continues to increase it could have a ‘detrimental effect for patients’.
“That is why Westminster must undertake immediate research into how these demands for extra information affect primary care.
“GPs have already said the system is flawed and it is increasingly frustrating the Department for Work and Pensions refuses to acknowledge this or make any changes.
“The SNP has already condemned the negative impact UK welfare reform legislation is having on the people of Scotland. The Scottish Government is investing at least £68 million in each of the next two years into helping mitigate the impacts of the UK welfare reform legislation.
“The only way for Scotland to have a welfare system that truly reflects our own priorities is to have the full powers of an independent country so we can devise policies to benefit the people of Scotland and ensure fair and decent support for all.”