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'Second opinion' on benefits needs psych angle

Media Statement
For immediate release
Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Turner: 'Second opinion' on benefits needs psych angle

United Future deputy leader Judy Turner today welcomed the Government's belated move to a new 'second opinion' approach to assessing sickness beneficiaries, but said that those doctors should have some psychological expertise given the rapidly rising number of stress-related claims.

"This is a step in the right direction and goes some way to addressing the current situation that puts GPs in a position of ruining their relationships with their patients, but it could be far bolder," Mrs Turner, who last week called again for designated doctors to test claimants, as is the case with invalid benefit claims.

"A number of doctors have told me that they are increasingly being asked to sign-off on claims by potential beneficiaries that they suffer from fairly intangible or subjective disorders, such as stress, depression, back pain and even drug addiction," she said. "This places them in a potentially difficult position. They can either do as the patient asks - which is the easy option - or refuse, inviting potential conflict with the patient.

"They may then lose that patient and their family, which means a loss of income. The patient may then exaggerate their symptoms to a new GP to get the forms signed, which in turn compromises the patient's care."


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