Today in the Guardian, a doctor has written to express her fears that disadvantaged patients, especially those suffering from severe mental illness are being found fit to work by the Atos assessment. These people include patients who are extremely unwell and in their doctor's opnion, in no fit state to seek employment. They are being placed at high risk of homelessness and suicide as their income is stopped and their rent falls into arrears. The result of government policy is that vulnerable people with mental health conditions that were being managed by their GPs and local community health teams are now finding themselves on the streets. This cannot be right in a fair and caring society. Do we really believe that bullying vulnerable people to the point that their mental health breaks down and psychiatric crisis teams have to be called in, is a justifiable consequence of welfare reform?
In the words of the GP,
"I have watched with mounting horror as my patient, an extremely vulnerable woman, has been put at risk of homelessness and deteriorating illness as a result of government policy. I am very aware of the importance of work, and as a GP will always encourage people to look for a suitable job if I think they can. But I also know my patients, and I am outraged that some are being put through the punishing stress this assessment causes. Many of my patients have gone through the Atos assessment to be told that they are fit for work with all their benefits stopped without notice. The financial impact is extreme. Several of my patients have shown worsening symptoms of depression, and some have become suicidal. Because we were so concerned about a patient's mental health – which worsened as a result of the stress caused by these assessments – we have had to involve a psychiatric crisis team."
"I am fearful that more of my patients will be put at risk of homelessness and suicide by this brutal new system."