The DWP has issued a new ESA65B, the form used to inform a patient’s GP of their WCA outcome. This form which requests GPs not to send any further fit notes for ESA purposes after a claimant has been found fit for work, unless they appeal had already been at the centre of a controversy. James Harrison died 10 months after being found fit for work and after the jobcentre asked his GP not to issue further fit notes for ESA purposes. James Harrison wanted a fit note because he was too ill to attend the jobcentre appointments, but his GP refused to issue them. http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/29/jobcentre-secretly-told-dying-mans-gp-to-stop-giving-him-sick-notes-6349168/
The new ESA65B form which is headed ‘Help us support your patient to return to or start work’ has an added paragraph http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2018-0290/ESA65B_Letter.pdf
In the course of any further consultations with [Title] [First name] [Surname] we hope you will also encourage [select] in [select] efforts to return to, or start, work.
It is all in keeping with DWP’s mantra that not only work is good for health, but also should be a ‘health outcome’. There are many reasons why this is wrong and DR Jay Watts, Consultant clinical psychologist, lists some of them:
Health professionals across the country will be horrified at this latest interference from the DWP – a move that undermines clinical expertise and threatens the safety of patients. There are a number of problems. First the letter places the expertise of DWP-funded ESA assessors above that of GPs. This is despite the fact GPs are more qualified to assess mental health, and can do so with the benefits of having known the patient for years, often decades (as opposed to in a one-off assessment). The DWP letter makes clear that they wish claimants to return to work at any cost, even if that means leaving a current occupation – an attack on the core identity of patients likely to have a damaging effect on mental health. Second, the letter states that “we know most people are better off in work”. This ignores a considerable literature showing that work can be damaging for mental health, with poor work environments a frequent trigger to mental breakdown. Economic evidence shows that rushing people back into work increases the likelihood of long-term illness. How then can it be right to encourage GPs to coerce patients back to work, a pressure likely to increase the feelings of shame, despair and anxiety at not working that have been exacerbated by the governments relentless and damaging campaign to associate worklessness with worthlessness? Third, the pressure the DWP is exerting on GPs to ‘encourage’ patients back to work, and desist from providing fit notes, is an attack on clinical expertise and the sanctity of the clinical space and clinical decision-making. Without a firm denouncement of this letter from Royal College of General Practitioners, we risk a situation where claimants will feel unwilling to make appointments with their GPs, given the level of fear the DWP and the work agenda elicits, with damaging and potentially life-threatening effects on the physical and mental health of claimants. It is vital that health professionals speak up for claimants rights, and insist that fit notes and therapeutic conversations are dictated by the needs of patients not the DWP.
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?
You can make sure that your GP does not receive this letter and is not informed of your WCA outcome. This is sensitive personal data and the DWP needs your consent to share it as show here in this FOI request. There are several steps you need to take to refuse your consent:
1) You need to refuse to give your consent when you are completing your ESA50. On page 21 of the ESA50 form, under the “Other information” box you will write:
I DO NOT consent/agree to my doctor or any doctor treating me,
being informed about the Secretary of State’s
– limited capability for work
– limited capability for work-related activity
or being sent a summary of the Limited Capability for Work Assessment.
And you need to remove/strike out the text on the ESA50 form in the Declaration section page 22, that covers allowing the DWP to notify the person’s GP. The ESA50 form used for this is this form
2) Because you cannot be sure that the ESA50 form will be read by DWP, you need to write to the benefit centre which processes your claim, to inform them that you refuse to give your consent to share the WCA outcome with your GP, or any doctor. You will find a proforma letter to do so at the end of this article.
If you forgot to amend the ESA50 form in order to refuse your consent, you can still write to the DWP/benefit centre after every ESA50 form submitted and or after every WCA undertaken asking them not to share your WCA outcome with your GP.
This is heavily drawn from Frank Zola’s article on the same subject, which also provides more information and template letters to help you to refuse your consent. https://mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/do-not-tell-gp-outcome-of-your-work-capability-assessment-wca-donotconsent/
And thanks also to John Slater @AmateurFOI for his input
That should stop the DWP interfering in the doctor/patient’s relationship and destroying the trust which exists between them and also stop the DWP from exerting pressures on GPs in a way which can be detrimental for their patients.
[Your full address]
Department for Work and Pensions
[Address of your local JCP office]
[Enter Your National Insurance Number]
Dear Sir or Madam
RE: Consent, ESA50 and my Work Capability Assessment (WCA)
I write to confirm that I do not consent to my or any doctor being informed of any determination related to:
- limited capability for work
- limited capability for work-related activity
I am asserting my rights under the Data Protection Act (1998), as the Department requires my explicit consent to share said determination with my or any Doctor/GP, as it is my sensitive personal data.
Please write to me to acknowledge receipt of this letter and confirm that my records have been updated on the appropriate IT systems.
On your ESA50 form, a copy of which I have retained, I have removed/ struck-out the part of the declaration section that states:
“I agree to my doctor or any doctor treating me, being informed about the Secretary of State’s determination on
– limited capability for work
– limited capability for work-related activity, or
If I change my mind in the future I will write to the Department to advise it. I will not notify the Department of any change via the ESA50 form and should there be any doubt this letter should always take precedent.