POLITICS
18/07/2013 13:10 BST | Updated 18/07/2013 13:57 BST

South Wales GPs Told Not To Help Benefit Appeal Patients Due To Time Constraints

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Overstretched GPs in South Wales have been instructed not to help patients appealing against decisions to have their benefit payments stopped.

The Bro Taf local medical committee (LMC) has issued a letter to GPs in its area advising them not to concentrate their time on seeing ill patients instead.

Since changes to benefits payments came into force in April many people who had previously been eligible for welfare have been told they are fit for work.

Those wishing to appeal a decision can do so but are obliged to collect evidence to support their case, usually from their GPs who is their primary point of contact for care.

LMC chair Dr Charles Allanby told BBC Radio Wales the guidance was issued in an effort to reduce GPs already stretched workloads.

He said: "We are seeing at least one or two patients per surgery per doctor, asking for assistance.

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"If you add that up throughout the whole of Wales, that is an enormous number of appointments being taken up by people who are not actually ill.

"Do we want to see doctors seeing ill patients, or do we want to see doctors seeing patients who are not ill but simply want to undertake some form of appeal letter?"

But disability campaigners say the policy leaves people with no place to turn.

Miranda French, policy and public affairs manager of Disability Wales told The Huffington Post UK: "The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have put the onus on individuals to collect evidence of their disability but if GPs are told not able to help them then where can they get it from?

"We are extremely concerned about this blanket decision as it covers areas with high numbers of disability benefit claimants."

A spokesperson for the DWP said all decisions about benefits eligibility were taken after "thorough assessment and after careful consideration of all the available evidence".

They added: "GPs have been clear that they do not want to be responsible for making decisions on people's benefit entitlement, which is why we have processes in place to request the appropriate information from GPs to enable us to make those decisions."