Consultant General practitioner

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Scrap work capability assessment, doctors demand

The computer-based system being used to determine whether people receiving incapacity benefit are fit to work should be scrapped, the meeting agreed.

London GP Louise Irvine said the WCA (work capability assessment) system was causing ‘distress’ to thousands of people with long-term health conditions deemed fit for work, as well as subjecting the doctors involved to 'McDonaldisation' of their careers.

She said 40 per cent of those who appealed WCA decisions were successful and this success rate rose to 70 per cent for those who took up legal representation.

Dr Irvine said: ‘There is no empathy in the system, it is all accusatory.'

However, London consultant in occupational medicine David Snashall urged the meeting not to call for the WCA to be replaced, arguing that there was a scrutiny process in place to improve the system.

Professor Snashall said there was a fundamental misunderstanding surrounding the computer-based system, which was ‘merely a guide’ and did not mandate the questions.

However, the meeting supported a call on the BMA 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 to some of the weakest and vulnerable in society’.

Welfare reform: pain but no gain?