Inclusion Scotland

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Friday, 25 May 2012

Today at Liverpool the voice of general practice in Britain, the United Kingdom Local Medical Committees (UKLMC) Conference passed the following motion at their annual conference:

...That conference, in respect of work capability assessments (WCA) as performed by ATOS Healthcare, believes that the:

(i) Inadequate computer based assessments that are used have little regard to the nature or complexity of the needs of long term sick and disabled persons

(ii) WCA should end with immediate effect and be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to some of the weakest and most vulnerable in society.

Dr. Stephen Carty, member and medical adviser to the Scottish-based campaign group Black Triangle, who tabled the motion which conference carried unanimously with no votes against and no abstentions said:

“The voices of Britain’s doctors have spoken. The unjust and inhumane DWP/AtoS Work Capability Assessment régime must now end “with immediate effect”. There are not sufficient safeguards in the present system to prevent avoidable harm [to sick and/or disabled people].”

Dr Carty, a GP in Leith, on the edge of Edinburgh, tabled an identical motion at the Scottish LMC Conference in March, where it was overwhelmingly approved, said:

“Now that the motion is passed it will become policy of the BMA’s General Practice Committee, which negotiates with the government on behalf of GPs and would be expected to push for the WCA to be scrapped”.

Dr Carty said he hoped the committee would “negotiate in the hardest terms” with the DWP over the WCA.

In recent evidence he gave to the Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee Dr. Carty told the Scottish Government that “non-cooperation is possible”.

He told the committee that he felt that he was “complicit” in a system that had  been shown to be harmful and which violated the GMC’s recent publication on Good Medical Practice guidance; that a doctor must (overriding duty or principle) take prompt action if he feels that “patient safety is or may be seriously compromised by inadequate… policies or systems”.

He said “I feel that it is both possible and appropriate to withdraw cooperation unless there are clear changes”.

Thousands of terrified sick and/or disabled people have been asking our campaign and each other since the motion was carried this morning “but what does this actually mean in practice?”

Does it mean that patients no longer have to fear being compelled to attend an assessment where up to 90% of appellants win their appeals (as in the case of those represented by MIND in Oxford this year) with representation and 40% win without representation?

Does it mean that I will no longer be forced to subsist in abject penury on next to nothing for an average 10 months while I wait for my appeal comes to come to Tribunal: An ordeal so grueling that many coroners’ inquests have already recorded the stress of this to have been a primary contributor to many vulnerable people having taken their own lives?

Sadly, it does not.

The motion is also set be debated at the BMA’s annual conference for all doctors, to be held next month. If it is approved at that meeting, the motion will become BMA-wide policy.

A DWP spokesman told Disability News Service last week that “We clearly don’t agree that the WCA should be scrapped… The WCA was developed in close consultation with experts and disability organizations and we are continually working to make sure it is fair and effective… That is why we are implementing recommendations made by our independent reviewer, Professor Malcolm Harrington, and want to keep improving the WCA.”

John McArdle, Founding Member of Black Triangle said:

“As a grassroots disability rights campaign group and disabled people’s organization (DPO), constituted and run by and for disabled people, we say that we, the sick and disabled people of Britain have never been consulted in the way that the DWP asserts. The findings of The Spartacus Report “Responsible Reform” exposed once and for all the utter sham passes for the government’s claims to have consulted with disabled people over these so-called ‘reforms’.”

He continued “The Harrington Reports are a whitewash. Nobody working with sick and/or disabled people, or disabled people themselves, have seen any improvements to the system. In fact the system has gotten far, far worse for us and we expect exactly the same thing to happen with the abolition of DLA and the introduction of PIP”.

“We congratulate Paul Farmer CEO of MIND for his recent, honourable resignation from the Government’s WCA Advisory Committee on grounds that the assessment process is “inhumane” and that the Government is not listening after his two years on the panel.” he said

“We furthermore condemn in the strongest possible terms the new appointment of the CEO of the MS Society Simon Gillespie in replacement of Mr. Farmer and we call upon Sir Michael Marmot, President of the BMA and all other members of the panel to follow Mr. Farmer’s example and withdraw forthwith from this totally discredited body in the light of today’s vote.”

“Sick and/or disabled people are under full-scale sustained attack by this government whose behaviour is reminiscent of the darkest days of fascism. Now, with all the evidence taken together, far from that statement being hyperbole, it is preposterous to suggest otherwise.

“We say that to this government: “You may pass unjust decrees and seek to carry out policies amounting to little more than Eugenics and Social Darwinism dressed up as “helping ‘the disabled’ back to work” in order to cut £18 billion from the social security budget this year; £10bn next year and a further £25bn (as David Cameron was reported to have considered in the media last week) in the term to come.”

He continued: “You may pass these decrees but you cannot compel the members of our medical and allied caring professions to take part in your hatchet job – in violation of every medical and human ethical principle they stand for and live by!.”

“This is just the beginning. We fight on until all professional bodies and all indeed all of civil society, join with us and the medical profession in refusing to be complicit in policies and systems that are killing sick and disabled people and driving a great many more into penury and destitution.