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DWP letter to GPs following ESA refusal

Ken Butler
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Disability Rights UK

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I’m not sure if other people have had the following problem.

Client seeks your advice following ESA refusal and says that their GP has told them that they can’t issue further medical certificates.

The GP has explained to them that this is because they’ve received a letter from the DWP saying they’re not allowed to.

I’ve managed to get hold of a copy of this standard letter (see attached).

Although it does say that “you do not have to give your patient any more medical statements for ESA purposes” it does go on to say that “you may have to give your patient more medical statements if they decide to appeal”.

It’s useful to now know what this letter actually says.

However, I’ve also been asked by the DWP officer who sent me a copy if I have any comments as to its contents.

What do other people think of it?

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Welfare benefits - Craven CAB, North Yorkshire

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Just before the new fit notes came in, we had a client who needed sick notes for a PPI claim. His GP told him there was a “government directive” preventing him from issuing any, because client had failed the WCA. We just suggested the doctor be asked to write a letter, but never got to the bottom of what the GP was talking about.

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Welfare benefits caseworker - Oldham CAB

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I am afraid we see this all too often here in Oldham and we have 2 surgeries in particular who will not issue further medical certificates once they have received that notification from Jobcentre Plus. Even when we explain that our client is appealing they refuse to issue further medical certificates stating Jobcentre Plus have told them not to do so. I have ended up having to make complaints on behalf of clients against these surgeries before my clients got issued with further medical certificates.

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Torbay Disability Information Service, Torbay NHS Care Trust

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There seems to be a pattern developing here. First of all appellants receive phone calls suggesting their cases have no merit. Now, carefully worded letters are sent to GPs to discourage them writing a Med3. With the eventual withdrawal of legal funding from welfare benefits cases, it’s only a matter of time before appeal rights are scrapped altogether. Coming soon is the ‘Work Programme’, I wonder how long it will be before the ‘new’ Work House model is rolled out?

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Sunderland West Advice Project

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America sneezes and we shortly catch a cold. Not too long im afraid until welfare-to-work programmes are the norm as per the American model.

John Birks
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Welfare Rights and Debt Advice - Stockport Council

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The form re:MED3’s is not new and is broadly similar to the letter they used to issue for IB cases (from memory.)

The only change being that it includes the bit about appealing the decision.

The DWP issue guidance on their website to health officials.

The FAQ’s section reveals the following

Q: Do I have to provide a further medical statement to a patient who has been advised by Jobcentre Plus that they are not entitled to Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance?

A: If your patient appeals against the decision you may issue further medical statements until the appeal is held if you feel that it is medically appropriate. Medical evidence is required to support benefit claims at all times unless the Work Capability Assessment threshold is met. This requirement does not change while a patient is appealing. If you consider that your patient is fit for work and you do not issue a Med 3, Jobcentre Plus will advise your patient of the alternative options open to them. This may include claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance until the appeal outcome, if the specific qualifying conditions are met.

If the appeal is unsuccessful, you should only issue further statements if their condition worsens significantly or they have a new medical condition.

I’ve seen occasions where the GP will not issue a sick note but that is up to the GP as they’re issuing a certificate of their opinion.

Maybe it’s worthmaking sure the doctor is expressing their opinion rather than following the DWP guidance?