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Almost 12,000 illness benefit reviews undertaken this year

The figures were supplied to this newspaper by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

There have also been 2,609 disability allowance claim reviews, resulting in 150 claims being closed.

As previously reported in the Medical Independent (MI), there were 16,472 illness benefit claim reviews in 2017, resulting in 1,198 claims being closed.  There were also 1,830 disability allowance claim reviews in 2017, resulting in 135 claims being closed.

Medical assessment may be carried out to determine an individual’s continued eligibility to receive illness benefit or disability allowance. These assessments are undertaken by doctors in the cases of illness benefit claims. Illness benefits include disability and carers’ allowances, among other payments.

Concern continues about the delays by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in issuing illness benefit payments to individuals.

Anecdotal reports have emerged of people waiting up to eight weeks for payments, while others are owed money in arrears.

There was anger expressed by the NAGP in August, when the Department originally indicated that GPs were to blame for the delays.

Earlier this month, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty apologised to people affected by the recent delays in illness benefit payments. She said issues with her Department’s new IT system have been rectified.

A spokesperson for the Department said: “The ultimate aim is to move to an online GP certification system for illness and injury benefits and to make claims and payment procedures more efficient for patients, GPs and the Department”.

The IMO is engaged with the Department and has insisted that there are no new contractual arrangements in place for GPs and no change to work practices pending conclusion of negotiations.

Two new GP polls have indicated that between 70 and 80 per cent of GPs are still refusing to use the new illness benefit forms and certificates.

A poll of around 450 GPs, which ran for a week on GPBuddy.ie, found just 12 per cent of respondents had adopted the new forms, while 88 per cent had not.

GPs were also asked: ‘Do you intend to use new social welfare forms without prior union agreement?’

Of the 374 respondents to this question, just 5 per cent said ‘yes’, 84 per cent said ‘no’ and the remaining 11 per cent were ‘undecided/unsure’.

Meanwhile, a separate poll on the National GP Forum revealed 39 per cent were continuing to use the old forms, 25 per cent were using new forms and almost 33 per cent were using photocopies. The remainder indicated they were using ‘something else’.

Almost 12,000 illness benefit reviews undertaken this year

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