Following an increase in the number of clients coming into the CAB with problems accessing medical evidence to support benefit applications, reconsiderations and appeals, the Stirling Social Policy Team decided to research the issue further.
The Team undertook a small scale research study to find out more about the issues surrounding medical evidence for their clients, and to find a solution to support local people experiencing these problems.
Their research set out to meet the following objectives:
- to investigate how widespread the practice of charging for medical evidence to support DWP applications, reconsiderations and appeals is within the district of Stirling
- to determine what impact the increasing demand for medical evidence, to support patients being assessed for benefit eligibility, is having on GPs, allied health professionals and mental health practitioners
- to examine how claimants are being affected by the increasing use of medical evidence to determine benefit eligibility.
Under Pressure research
Stirling CAB produced a research report exploring how increasing requirements for medical evidence in support of benefit applications is impacting on both claimants and health professionals. Evidence was gathered using a survey that was dispatched to GPs, mental health professionals, and allied health professionals (AHPs) within Stirling District. Client testimonies were taken from the bureau’s records.
Health professionals by and large were divided as to whether increasing requests for evidence i.e. letters, fit notes, etc. monopolised their time and restricted their capacity to treat patients. Those saying that it did highlighted issues such as increasing bureaucracy, poorly informed DWP decisions, and repeated evidence requests, as being amongst the factors contributing to this problem.
Client testimonies raised similar issues to health professionals; in particular clients who had been told they were fit for work despite having valid evidence justifying their limitations. Administrative failures were also highlighted, some of which resulted in on-going claims either being delayed or terminated.
Guide to medical evidence
As well as researching the issues, the team looked for a solution and decided to write a guide informing clients of their rights to access medical evidence and steps that can be taken if refused.
The guide is designed to make the process easier for the claimant to obtain medical evidence. It features template letters to health-care professionals to request this help and descriptions of what constitutes medical evidence – as it does not need to just be a letter from a GP or other healthcare professional.
The guide includes a section on obtaining one’s own patient medical records using the 2012 NHS Charter of Rights and Responsibilities and the Data Protection Act 1988 if the patient is denied support from a healthcare professional. It also has sections on appealing decisions and obtaining help to do so via the Patient Advice and Support Service.
Both documents are available for download from the foot of this page.