This was a screaming headline in the Daily Mail this week: THIS bloke is not on the sick! Angry GP cites Hawking to shame hordes of patients asking him to sign them off.
Whilst I do understand frustration from a doctor working in the severely underfunded NHS, with stretched resources and limits on time, these are issues to address to those responsible for them: the Government. Instead Dr Phil Peverley decided to scapegoat and further stigmatise sick and disabled people.
Dr Phil Peverley grossly misunderstands the horrific regime that the Government have set up for sick and disabled people. In order to qualify for benefits, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) demands that we submit evidence via “fitnotes” from our GPs.
Initially this is on a monthly basis until an “assessment” is arranged by the DWP and Atos. This happens any time after 13 weeks from the initial claim. However, due to a backlog of work at the DWP, it may take several months. Meanwhile, monthly sick notes are required in order for people to remain eligible for their benefit .
This criterion of eligibility was established by the Government and not sick and disabled people.
Because of the fundamentally unfair nature of these controversial assessments, and the fact that they are simply a means by which the Government remove benefits that we are entitled to, many people are forced to appeal Atos and DWP decisions that remove their lifeline benefits and support. This process also requires further “objective” proof from doctors so that people can present their case and have a fair hearing. Many people win their tribunal, which shows how very deeply “flawed” the “assessment” process is.
Every single question asked on the application form, and at “assessment” is designed to justify ending 7 out of 8 claims for ESA and passing people as “fit for work”, no matter how ill and disabled they may be. That is what Atos are contracted to do by the Government. This is not a genuine assessment, but rather, an opportunity for the DWP to take away the financial support that we are entitled to.
It was the Government that established the regime of constant assessment, reassessment and frank persecution of sick and disabled people, and because of the Government’s OWN criteria for eligibility, through no fault of their own, sick and disabled people have to constantly provide “evidence” that they are sick and disabled, and unfit for work.
We know that at least 10,600 people have died within 6 weeks of being told by the DWP that they are “fit for work”. (See The ESA ‘Revolving Door’ Process, and its Correlation with a Significant Increase in Deaths amongst the Disabled, which was written following an FOI response from DWP.)
Now the DWP is refusing to provide any further data on this subject. We need to ask what it is they are hiding. Why would the Government hide evidence related to their “reforms”?
Peverley’s crass comments, lack of understanding and evident disdain for patients ought to inform him that he has perhaps made the wrong career choice. But that would require a degree of self-awareness and concern for the well-being of others. Alas, these are qualities that Tory spokespersons are not well known for.
Atos whistleblower Dr Greg Wood writes in response to Dr Peverley’s claims that ‘nearly everyone is capable of some form of work’ (that was the ‘if Stephen Hawking can do it, nearly everyone can it’ doctor). Dr Wood replies: “He’s right, in the sense that nearly all small boys are capable of going up chimneys.”
The following excellent post on the subject was reblogged from here.
I fully endorse all of the points raised.
Joint Response by DPAC and Black Triangle on Dr Phil Peverley’s Comments
DPAC and Black Triangle condemn the misguided, insensitive and inflammatory comments of Dr Phil Peverley. We also want to condemn the pitch and severity of the pieces in the Mail and Telegraph (2nd August) framing Peverley’s comments, as a further outrageous abuse of the facts and issues affecting disabled people and those with diagnosed long term health issues.
Peverley’s words are an insult to all those that suffer the misery and anxiety of Atos within the regime designed to remove support from disabled people. His words are an insult to those that have died shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’ or before an appeal which found that, once again, Atos were wrong-something that happens with increasing regularly in a system that is chaotic and unworkable.
Those people may also have been within the so-called ‘proportion of punters’ that Peverley claims ‘are hell-bent on trying to prove they’re really ill, and need us [GPS] to confirm it’ or maybe they were some of the perceived ‘disgruntled unworking well’ who are ‘full of indignation at being considered reasonably healthy.’ The Department of Works and Pensions DWP own figures show deaths within 6 weeks of tests were at over 10,000. The DWP are refusing to publish up –to date statistics, so we would guess that these figures have risen significantly.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of Black Triangle on the 28th June 2012 the British Medical Association (BMA) supported a call to demand that the WCA should be ended ‘with immediate effect and be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause unavoidable harm.’ Peverley on the other hand thinks Atos are doing a great job -despite new evidence everyday that they clearly are not, despite MPs, journalists, and the public accounts committee condemnation of their conduct and the multi-million Atos contract. (See Dr McCartney’s piece in the British Medical Journal and Black Triangles’ 2013 letter of support from Drs and MPS)
Remarkably, Peverley declared that he considered putting a picture of Stephen Hawkings in his surgery with the caption: ‘This bloke is not on the sick!’ The comparison of Hawkings to every single disabled person is beyond bizarre. This is a man with the funds to ensure a network of P.A. support, home adaptations and technical aids- something far out of the reach of the majority of disabled people –where even a basic level of support is becoming increasingly unlikely in the current slash and burn climate. Hawkings won’t miss his ILF payments if the appeal hearing against the DWP doesn’t produce the correct verdict. Hawkings won’t need to worry about local authority cuts or the tsunami of other cuts, caps, punitive costs, sanctions and penalties being imposed on disabled people and other low income people by this Government.
In Sept 2012 the BMA also said that GPs workloads had massively increased due to the chaotic system of the WCA and increasing numbers of appeals. Peverley also says: ‘’These fitness-to-work assessments – under Atos, and under anyone who takes the role for that matter – generate a massive amount of work in general practice’ in his column in the Pulse. However, neither the Mail nor the Telegraph wanted to pick up on the increased workloads the Atos/WCA system is causing for GPs. None wanted to mention that people can now be charged up to 200 pounds for GP reports, to support them in an assessment, or that GPs increasingly refuse to supply reports either.- a further hurdle for disabled people and those with debilitating long term health issues in the attempt to gain the support they need in the punitive assessment process.
The Mail and Telegraph both carried the comments of Peverley. True- they’re both right wing newspapers and tools of Tory propaganda. Yet, the pitch and severity of both pieces in framing Peverley’s comments was a clear abuse of the facts and issues facing disabled people; as are Peverly’s inflammatory comments.
The Telegraph carried the headline: ‘A GP incensed at his surgeries being full of the “disgruntled unworking well” has said he considered displaying a poster of Professor Stephen Hawking along with the caption: “This bloke is not on the sick”’.
While the Mail went that bit further with the more loaded headline: ‘THIS bloke is not on the sick! Angry GP cites Hawking to shame hordes of patients asking him to sign them off’.
Peverley’s original Pulse piece fits the welfare ‘reform’ agenda perfectly. An agenda that incorporates the right wing media and Governments constant demonising of disabled people as feckless/workshy/scroungers – Peverley’s original rallying cry in the Pulse was that he did not want to sign ‘sick notes. The piece headlined: ‘Save me from the unworking well’ was posted on the 29th July. Neither the Mail nor the Telegraph showed the same eagerness to publish his jaunty column of 25thApril ‘A Curious Case of Missing Sick Notes’ which talks about the constant losing of sick notes by the DWP. But why would they?
Peverley has played into their hands, not only does he appear to support the discredited bio -psychosocial model, beloved of Aylward and Freud, that removes GPs and replaces them with private companies paid with huge amounts of public money- he has given them the final piece of the puzzle –privatise the sick note and remove it from any element of medical evidence. Let’s have 100% ‘fit to work’ even if a 100% drop dead in the process. Those that can afford it, like Hawkings can buy their own private ‘back-up plan’.
In the meantime Peverley has been reported to the GMC. Twitter @gmcuk
There is a facebook campaign group at facebook.com/permalink.php?…
Peverley is on twitter @PhilPeverley
His surgery address for letters is at the link below-please do not use the surgery telephone lines!
Dr Phil Peverley
To Protest against this and the other attacks on disabled people join DPAC’s 7 days of Action http://dpac.uk.net/2013/07/reclaiming-our-futures-7-days-of-action/
DPAC twitter: @dis_ppl_protest
Black Triangle twitter: @blacktriangle1