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Fears ‘desperate’ people could be put off claiming for benefits by cost of GP letter to prove they can’t work

Councillor Glen Reynolds.
Councillor Glen Reynolds.

Fears have been raised that disabled people in the north-east could be put off seeking benefit payments they are owed as many are forced to pay up to £120 for GP letters to support their applications.

The documents are required to assist with requests for the personal independence payment (Pip), which is handed out to those living with a disability or a long-term health condition which prevents them from earning a living.

The costs of the letters for those living in the region vary from £90 to £120, and details of the charges came to light after members of the Banff and Buchan area committee were given a briefing about the situation.

It is understood the fee covers the doctor’s time, as they often have to look into a patient’s medical history before writing the letter.

Banff and District councillor, Glen Reynolds, fears the high costs associated with securing the medical evidence letters could put people off applying for benefits they are rightly owed.

He said it is a “desperate” situation for some as they have to find extra cash to prove they qualify.

Mr Reynolds said: “I am highlighting that the cost of a GP letter in support of any appeal has been revealed as between £90 to £120.

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“How on earth is that possible for desperate claimants in receipt of universal credit, and struggling to make ends meet?

“This issue has been recognised by GPs, who would rather spend time treating patients than writing support letters that are not always beneficial for their patients and having to charge for their time.”

Pip was gradually introduced to replace the disability living allowance in 2013.

Last night, a Department of Work and Pensions spokeswoman stressed that the body does not make any demands of claimants that could cost them money, but confirmed that some GPs “may” charge fees to write letters advising on a patient’s health.

She said: “Pip assessments are already carried out by medical professionals who examine how a person’s disability or health condition affects their day-to-day life.

“We never ask claimants to provide any evidence that would incur costs and while some GPs may choose to charge a fee for letters, these are not needed for an application.”

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