Minister says GPs must help cut claims

    Family doctors have rejected government claims that they are
    failing to do enough to persuade people to come off incapacity
    benefit.

    Department for Work and Pensions minister Jane Kennedy told the
    Social Market Foundation last month that two-thirds of the UK’s 2.7
    million incapacity benefit claimants had been told by their doctors
    not to work, despite them having “common health conditions” that
    should not prevent work.

    “Even though people with common health conditions can be helped
    back to work for their own well-being, few are told this by their
    GP,” Kennedy said. “This reflects the prevailing culture among
    health service practitioners of the need to protect their patients
    from work.”

    But a British Medical Association spokesperson said: “GPs are
    patient advocates not policemen. You can’t tackle something with a
    broad brush as every patient is different – their period of
    recovery is different.”

    Kennedy’s speech followed the government’s pledge in December’s
    pre-budget report to build on the permitted work rules, under which
    incapacity benefit claimants are helped to try out work without
    automatically losing their benefits.

    The government is also believed to have dropped any plans to limit
    the amount of time for which incapacity benefit can be claimed in
    favour of a flat rate. Currently the rate rises to £72 after a
    year, £16 above the initial rate.

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