More than eight out of ten GPs say they have patients who have developed mental health problems due to a controversial benefits test, according to new polling released today by the charity Rethink Mental Illness.

Over 1,000 GPs were asked for their views on the impact of the Work Capability Assessment on the mental health of their patients. The test is being used by the Government to determine eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which replaced incapacity benefits in 2008.  Around 1.5 million people are currently being re-assessed for ESA through the Work Capability Assessment. The polling, commissioned by Rethink Mental Illness, reveals that more than one in five (21%) GPs have patients who have had suicidal thoughts as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment, while three quarters say that patients who have been negatively affected by the test have needed increased support from them.

Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “These shocking statistics really show that the Work Capability Assessment is pushing some of the most unwell and vulnerable people in our society to the brink. Many people who have a severe mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder say that their condition has been made even worse as a result of the stress caused by the test. It’s the number one concern for our members, and our staff have been inundated with calls from people who are extremely worried about the impact it is having on their mental health.”


Over 61% of GPs said assessors do not make enough use of their knowledge of the mental health of their patients. Paul Jenkins said: “This highlights one of the most serious problems with the Work Capability Assessment. People undergoing the test are expected to gather their own medical evidence to prove that they are unfit for work, which can be an almost impossible task if you are dealing with symptoms like hearing voices, having delusions or being incapacitated by depression.
“This puts the most vulnerable people with severe mental illness at a serious disadvantage.”

Key findings from the polling:

  • 84% of GPs say they have patients who have presented with mental health problems such as stress, anxiety or depression as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment
  • 21% of GPs say they have patients who have had suicidal thoughts as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment
  • 14% of GPs have patients who self-harmed as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment
  • 6% of GPs have patients who have attempted or committed suicide as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment
  • 75% of GPs said that patients who are negatively affected by undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, need increased support from their GP
  • 61% of GPs say that JobCentre Plus (via Atos Healthcare) does not makes enough use of their knowledge of the mental health of your patients during the Work Capability Assessment process
  • 67% of GPs think that the assessors should seek information from GPs directly for those patients with mental health problems who are too unwell or vulnerable to arrange this themselves

Source: Inside Housing

Link: http://www.politics.co.uk/opinion-formers/rethink/article/rethink-mental-illness-new-gp-survey-shows-government-welfare

5th September 2012


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