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GPs dealing with patient housing and debt issues

15 July 2014

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A survey undertaken by the BMJ has discovered GPs are under increasing amounts of pressure from patients coming to them with housing, debt and unemployment problems.

Referring patients to employment and welfare advisers is becoming commonplace in general practice, a survey has revealed. 

And the introduction of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, known as the ‘Spare Room Tax’ has led to a rise in the number of patients presenting to GPs with housing problems in the past year, the BMJ poll reveals.

Out of 1,056 respondents, 68% of GPs reported that the under-occupancy penalty had led to an increase in workload, while 92% said that patient debt had impacted their work.

The new penalty has led to housing benefits cuts for people that have a spare room in their property.

Furthermore, 89% of GPs stated that unemployment had affected their workload to some degree in the last 12 months, with 29% mentioning it had “significantly increased” it, 38% saying it had “increased” it and 22% describing it to have “slightly increased” it.

Just 11% of GPs admitted that unemployment had no effect on their amount of work.

Inner city GPs were affected the most, with 36% and 38% reporting that workload had “significantly increased” due to patient debt and unemployment respectively.

As part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the disability living allowance is being replaced by the new personal independence payment (PIP).

GPs claim this has already to add to workloads, despite the fact that it will not be fully implemented until 2017.