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Online benefits appeal hearings could last for weeks, says tribunal president

The Tribunals Service is working towards an online appeal system in which appeals hearings could last for weeks, according to Judge John Aitken, president of the social entitlement chamber which deals with benefits appeals.

The revelation came in a series of email exchanges between a Benefits and Work member and the Tribunals Service.

Our member is challenging the practice of the Tribunals Service of allowing GPs who are registered, but who no longer have a licence to practice, to sit on appeal tribunal panels.

GPs, who are often retired, sit as medical members on tribunals for appeals dealing with benefits including ESA, PIP and DLA.

Our member has had to appeal their ESA decision repeatedly and, on each occasion, has discovered that the doctor on the panel did not hold a licence to practice.

The law allows a ‘registered medical practitioner’ to sit on First-tier and Upper Tribunal panels. The Tribunals Service believes that there is no requirement for such a person to also hold a licence to practice.

They argue that:

“The assessment of appellants is carried out as part of the process of the Tribunal reaching its decision and is not medical practice; there is no diagnosis, prescription of prescribed drugs or delivery of treatment.”

Our member, however, points out that the General Medical Council website includes a detailed guide to The privileges and duties of doctors: UK statutes. The introductory page plainly states:

“Please be aware that, in this context, the terms used to refer to a ‘doctor’ or ‘practitioner’, and in particular, the term ‘registered medical practitioner’, all refer to a doctor who is registered with a licence to practise with the GMC.”

The GMC guide includes sitting on benefits tribunals as one of the privileges that only a registered medical practitioner is allowed.

One of the concerns about allowing GPs without a licence to practise to sit on tribunals is that they are not required to undertake regular training, continuing professional development, in the way that practising doctors are. GPs are required to undertake 50 hours of CPD a year in an effort to ensure that their knowledge remains up-to-date.

Doctors who do not undertake CPD may have very outdated beliefs about many conditions, which may be especially problematic for claimants with conditions such as ME, fibromyalgia or a range of mental health issues.

The correspondence with our member has reached all the way to the top, with a contribution from Social Entitlement President Judge Aitken.

In the course of this correspondence, Judge Aitken revealed that the Tribunals Service is planning to make the appeals process much more “user friendly” by having appeals conducted online over a period of weeks.

The Tribunals Service believes that this will leave claimants feeling less apprehensive and give them the opportunity to raise all the points they wish to, as well as meaning that no travelling will be requited.

The judge acknowledged that many people will need help to use an online system but believes that the experience need be “no more intimidating than shopping online”.

Our member is continuing their battle against the use of GPs without a licence to practice. Meanwhile, we’d be interested to know what you think about the idea of online appeal hearings.

Comments  

+1 #12 Carolyn 2016-09-19 17:10
Quote:
sounds like a dreadful idea as avoids eye contact body language and all the more powerful ways to communicate suffering, pain and issues with health!
Quite right. Many people with physical or mental illness and depression try hard and often manage to hide it fairly well. But an in-person meeting, with body language, eye contact, facial expression etc, can show so much of the struggle going on underneath. An online appeal is the cheap option set up mainly, I suspect, to cope with the increase in appeals because of the DWPs determination to deny claims or put people off continuing a claim.
+2 #11 Carolyn 2016-09-19 17:01
Quote:
The requirement that a GP has to do CPD is very relevant. But it makes me wonder whether the so-called professionals that undertake the application stage assessments do their CPD.

Of course it is important that the people undertaking appeals are fully qualified, but it might be better if the assessors did their job properly in the first place.

As to on-line appeals, there is the same problem of physically getting to the place as with the assessment. I have my assessments done as home visits but have won every health-related appeal I have attended even though the effort has been huge. I'd rather have a Skype appeal than a written one but each appellant should be able to select what works best for them.

I'm probably not going to appeal when my next PIP comes round in 3 years. Appealing was just too much effort and made me more ill. The DWP will eventually win, the b**t***s
David, you appear to have fallen into the trap of thinking the DWP and Assessors are there to administer the benefit - I think you might find they are actually there to prevent or put off as many people as possible from either getting the benefit or going through the appeal, hence the appallingly low rate of success from either initial claims or Mandatory Reassessment. Your situation of feeling so ill you can no longer fight is precisely what they are aiming for. So, you might actually say, the assessors are doing their job properly.

Also, as far as I am concerned, someone who no longer holds a licence to practice is no longer a GP. It's like ex-army still calling themselves 'Major' or whatever. No, if they do not hold a licence to practice, they are not a GP.
+2 #10 JP 2016-09-14 16:53
I found the following

"One of the concerns about allowing GPs without a licence to practise to sit on tribunals is that they are not required to undertake regular training, continuing professional development, in the way that practising doctors are. GPs are required to undertake 50 hours of CPD a year in an effort to ensure that their knowledge remains up-to-date.

Doctors who do not undertake CPD may have very outdated beliefs about many conditions, which may be especially problematic for claimants with conditions such as ME, fibromyalgia or a range of mental health issues" very enlightening

Social Workers and Nurses have to reregister and Social workers particularly are not allowed to call themselves social workers unless registered.

Re the "shopping on line experience" in relation to the appeal, this would not suit the person I support as she is unable to do this task at all and not having a visual of the person - monitoring the non verbal communication will only add to further appeals
+2 #9 wizard 2016-09-14 11:16
Trying to conduct an appeal online sounds terrifying! I find computers really hard due to brainfog/M. E.
Pros: might give more time to think about a question. But what if you submit an answer and suddenly realise u forgot an important incident that wd back up ur claim? Cd u resubmit?
But gives more thinking time --- getting to an appeal/Trubunal us exhausting , and then being able to think straight when I get there ... Aargh!!!
Cons: having to go online repeatedly to make my appeal would make my disabilities worse, without question. I'd get more and more tired, therefore fall more often; be unable to wash and dress more often; drop things more often, cut/ burn myself while trying to prepare food. To say nothing of extra hours and days in bed.
Also I see the point that others have made, that they can think that if a claimant can get online, they're more likely to be assessed as fit for work!
It took me two attempts to even log in to this site --- I had to ask for both my username and a password reset!
+3 #8 MarkW 2016-08-23 18:12
David, your last paragraph makes sense to me. In my ignorance I assumed an 'indefinite' award would mean no more tests after 65, but it seems I'm mistaken.
The pressure of waiting on DLA for the letter changing me to PIP has changed my life, so heaven alone knows what happens when it comes to the day it arrives.
Like you I almost feel like jacking it all in due to stress, mental pressure, anxiety and depression.
+10 #7 David 2016-08-23 12:33
The requirement that a GP has to do CPD is very relevant. But it makes me wonder whether the so-called professionals that undertake the application stage assessments do their CPD.

Of course it is important that the people undertaking appeals are fully qualified, but it might be better if the assessors did their job properly in the first place.

As to on-line appeals, there is the same problem of physically getting to the place as with the assessment. I have my assessments done as home visits but have won every health-related appeal I have attended even though the effort has been huge. I'd rather have a Skype appeal than a written one but each appellant should be able to select what works best for them.

I'm probably not going to appeal when my next PIP comes round in 3 years. Appealing was just too much effort and made me more ill. The DWP will eventually win, the b**t***s
+4 #6 alison 2016-08-22 16:50
mark.. thanks for your comment and yes i totaly agree with you ,, ide prefer not to have to go through a appeal full stop !! never mind online or attending,, it not just computor either mobile phones is another ,,apaprantly on my assessment report ,i was observed to hold and use my mobile without difficulty ,bare in mind i was just trying to get a picture up to show them the bruising i had after a fall down my stairs a few days proir to my assesment ,,was no mention of this in my report it was disgussed but had no problem reporting that she obseverd me grabing my fone fine and using it without dificulty,.!! seems they fall on deaf ears when it suits them ,.
+7 #5 MarkW 2016-08-22 14:35
Alison above says being able to use a computer can count against you.
If this is right it goes against common sense. I can cope with emailing people but hate leaving the house - having to meet someone strange send my anxiety up, and talking to them even worse.
Forget telephones, I won't use one!
Lindat mentions Skype........no , pure and simple, I refuse!

I have been in front of a judge for my ESA, won, but that is one of the most frightening things anyone can ever go through!
+4 #4 Porridge 2016-08-21 15:12
I wouldn't mind online appeals if it was in written form only. But there should be a timeframe agreed by both parties to start and end the appeal, a short one, as these appeals are just another layer of anxiety upon the towering obelisk of anxieties which arise from having a disability and/or a serious chronic disease, and having to prove your limitations to a panel of complete strangers, as the last chance outpost of trying the get the help you need In order to live with some small measure of dignity.
+4 #3 alison 2016-08-20 15:27
i dont think it a good idea doing online appeals ,,as you would lose point for being able to use a computor for a start , it a subject always asked during assessments and most of time goes against you so not quite sure how online appeals would work ,,i personaly wouldnt like it as ime camera shy and suffer social anxiety so it would be no different for me as either attending a tribunal or via interent would still be very distressing for me ,,.
+3 #2 lindat 2016-08-20 12:07
Online as in via Skype? I would prefer as avoid the agony of even short journeys so I maybe more cognitive... then that could count against me eh... More details needed as to how it would be done.
+6 #1 abigail 2016-08-19 22:18
sounds like a dreadful idea as avoids eye contact body language and all the more powerful ways to communicate suffering, pain and issues with health!

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