In yet another blow for the Government’s welfare policies, GPs in Scotland have voted in favour of a motion calling for the end of the work capability assessment (WCA). These brutal and demeaning tests have been used to strip sickness and health related benefits from as many people as possible. The annual Scottish GP conference yesterday voted that:
“i. the inadequate computer-based assessments that are used have little regard to the nature or complexity of the needs of long term sick and disabled persons
ii. the WCA should end with immediate effect and be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to some of the weakest and most vulnerable in society “
GPs own opinions on their patient’s ability to work have been repeatedly ignored in favour of a short computer test carried out by French IT Company Atos. Today’s vote shows that doctors are starting to wake up to the implications of a system that violates the fundamental medical principle of ‘first do no harm’.
Tragically several people have killed themselves after learning of decisions made by Atos and the DWP. Thosands more have had conditions worsened and been forced into the endless round of appeals and retesting that has become the norm for people on sickness benefits. Doctors and nurses have been employed to carry out these tests in an effort to give them a modicum of medical respectability. What the implications of the passing of this motion are for Atos’ recruitment strategy are so far unclear, however this may yet be seen as the beginning of the end of this inhumane policy. Already insiders have claimed moral is at rock bottom at the company and they are finding it harder to recruit and retain medical staff. Doctors and nurses should not be used as political cover to dismantle the Welfare State.
This vote has come about in many ways through the lobbying of grass roots, claimant led groups such as most notably the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign who deserve a fucking medal. The BMA, who faced protests outside their recruitment fair last year due to the presence of Atos, should now consider their medical ethics across the rest of the UK. A letter signed by countless organisations last year demanded that the British Medical Journal cease all business relationships with the company.
The Work Capability Assessment is failing. It is time all medical staff rejected their role in the torment it has caused for hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people. Atos and the WCA kills. It is time both were condemned to history.