by Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to the ME Association, who was present at the DWP press conference yesterday (20 November 2012).
Along with members of Professor Malcolm Harrington's Fluctuating Conditions Group and the Mental Health Group I attended this meeting at DWP HQ. The Countess of Mar, chairman of the Forward ME group of charities, was also present.
Much of the post presentation discussion centred on problems relating to the collection of further documentary evidence – not just from doctors, this could be from other health care professionals, carers, etc as well. Obtaining this evidence should help to produce better decisions and reduce the large number of people going to appeal, where presentation of supporting medical evidence often plays a major role in overturning decisions.
The Countess of Mar and I both raised the issue of seeking further documentary evidence with DWP medical advisers during and after the meeting
It is worth pointing out that Professor Harrington makes several references and recommendations relating to ‘further documentary evidence' in his third year report on pages 21 – 23
Para 42 (p23):
It cannot be over emphasised how important it is to collect further documentary evidence EARLY in the WCA process. If collected at the start, this information would be available to Atos healthcare professionals for their comments and consideration during the face-to-face assessment and before the Decision Maker collates ALL information in advance of a decision being made.
Based on the discussion Professor Harrington recommends (bottom of p22):
Decision Makers should actively consider the need to seek further documentary evidence in every claimant's case. The final decision must be justified where this is not sought.
The issue of people being placed in the WRAG, and where this could then result in a deterioration of their health, was also raised by the Countess of Mar and is the subject of follow up correspondence with the DWP.