A mother who was battling a serious and debilitating lung condition was told that she no longer qualified for benefits on the day she died from her illness.
Dawn Amos, 67, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a collection of progressive lung diseases which cause severe breathing difficulties, and increases susceptibility to infections such as pneumonia.
The illness left Dawn with difficulty breathing, she was unable to walk for long periods of time, and she was left struggling to dress herself and unable to manage daily tasks independently.
She received attendance allowance from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to help with the extra costs of her essential personal care for six months, before being reassessed.
Her heartbroken husband Mick Amos, 64, discovered a letter sent from the DWP two days after his wife’s death.
It was a notification that Mrs Amos’s allowance was being withdrawn, based on her “treatment, medication, symptoms and test results.”
The letter had been sent out on November 27, the day that Mr Amos had taken the extremely difficult and very distressing decision to turn off Dawn’s life support machine.
COPD is an incurable, chronic and progressive illness.
Mr Amos said: “It’s disgusting and heartbreaking. We had to turn her machine off.
“How ill do you have to be?
“On the day she died I came downstairs and she couldn’t breathe properly so I phoned the ambulance, who said if she gets worse call us back.
“As soon as I got off the phone she collapsed and I was on the phone again.
“She had stopped breathing and I was doing CPR while I was on the phone to the ambulance.”
Dawn was taken to Broomfield Hospital, where she was put on a life support machine.
Mr Amos and Dawn’s daughter, Karina Mann, agreed to turn off the machine the same day.
Karina, 42, said that her mother had received attendance allowance for six months before they [the DWP] asked to reassess her.
She said: “Obviously she was ill enough for the benefit because we had to watch her die.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said:
“Our thoughts are with the family of Mrs Amos. The decision was based on evidence which included the opinion of Mrs Amos’ own GP.”
Clearly, the “evidence” was wrong. Again.
However, doctors are not actually permitted to give their medical opinion to the DWP. They are provided with a strictly limited “factual” government form to complete. Such restrictions on qualititative information and medical opinion apply to ALL government forms provided to GPs for the purpose of assessing the “evidence” of patient eligibility for all disability benefits, including Employment Support Allowance. The government informs GPs that:
“Decisions on benefit entitlement are made by non medical decision makers. Decision makers will use your report and will seek the advice of an experienced healthcare professional trained in disability assessment to review and interpret the report where needed.”
The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) form instructs GPs to:
“Please write down facts rather than opinion. We require an objective report – please only include information about symptoms that are recorded in the patient’s records and information about disabling effects that you or another healthcare professional have directly observed.
Please complete all sections as fully as possible but write “not known” if appropriate. “Not known” can be helpful.”
Members of the General Practitioners Committee (GPC) have voiced concern that patients with long term conditions might be periodically “harrassed” by the Department for Work and Pensions under the current assessment regime. Dr John Canning, chair of the GPC’s Professional Fees and Regulation Committee and a GP in Middlesbrough voiced concern about patients having to continually “prove” they deserve state support.
The government have persistently ignored the many evidence-based concerns raised by professionals, academic researchers, campaigners and opposition MPs that their austerity policies and anti-welfarism are having an extremely harmful effect, most often on our poorest and most vulnerable citizens.