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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: Fear of fitness-to-work test driving disabled to suicide


Fear of fitness-to-work tests are driving some disabled people to suicide and causing others mental health problems, according to the latest research among GPs.

A survey of more than 1,000 family doctors in the UK revealed that more than four out of five had patients who had developed mental health issues such as stress, anxiety or depression as a result of the Work Capability Assessment.
Just over one in five knew patients with most physical and mental health issues, who had suffered from suicidal thoughts as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the test, while 6% had experienced someone who had either attempted to take or had taken their own life.
Paul Jenkins, chief executive of charity Rethink Mental Illness, which commissioned the study, said: “These shocking statistics really show that the Work Capability Assessment is pushing some of the most unwell and vulnerable people in our society to the brink.”
The figures demonstrated how urgent it was for the government to overhaul the test. “The human and economic costs are too great for the government to continue with it. We urge the government to halt the system now – it could be the difference between life and death for some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Jenkins warned.
The Assessment, which is being debated in Parliament today, is being used by the government to re-assess whether 1.5 people should be eligible to claim the Employment and Support Allowance or not. Some ministers have argued that the welfare bill can be cut because a lot of people claiming the Allowance are fit for work.
The survey, which was conducted by ICM’s Vitaris Research Consultancy, also showed that 14% of GPs had patients who self-harmed due to the Assessment.
A huge 75% of doctors also indicated that the impact of the situation had had a negative effect on their patients and they had needed to provide increased support as a result.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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