Medical experts support call for shake up of benefits process

Martin Burnell with documents

A call to reform rules for terminally ill patients applying for disability benefits is backed by neurologists and GPs across the country, in a new survey commissioned by the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association.

The move would not only make benefits more easily accessible, avoiding the need for onerous application processes, it would also give people quicker access to desperately needed funds.

The MND Association has been campaigning for the rules to be changed alongside Madeleine Moon MP. Her private members bill is scheduled for a second reading in Parliament on Friday 23 November.

Under the Special Rules for Terminal Illness (SRTI) people’s application for disability benefits can be fast-tracked if their GP, consultant or specialist nurse completes a form (DS1500) confirming there is a ‘reasonable expectation of death within six months’. MND is a complex condition and it is almost impossible to give such a precise life expectancy.

In the medeConnect survey only seven per cent of neurologists and five per cent of GPs agreed that a patient’s condition ‘always makes it clear whether they should sign the DS1500’.

The MND Association is asking MPs to back the bill which calls for the wording to be amended, scrapping the ‘six month’ time limit. Seven in 10 neurologists (73%) and more than half (51%) of GPs questioned said they would support the reform of the criteria which would bring England and Wales into line with the recent change in Scotland.

This would spare others from the battle which Martin Burnell went through to access Universal Credit following his MND diagnosis. The 59-year-old was twice deemed fit to work.

He said:

“I have come to terms with having MND and not being able to do the job I loved as a carer, but no one should have to go through what I did. It was so frustrating. I had assessments from people sat behind a desk who didn’t seem to know what MND was. It shouldn’t be so hard to prove you are not going to get better.”

This independent poll of 1,001 GPs across the UK was conducted by medeConnect via their monthly GP omnibus survey. The poll was commissioned by the MND Association.

For further information and support contact our MND Connect helpline

mndconnect 0808 802 6262