The doctors’ union is set to alert every GP in the country to two regulations that campaigners believe could protect disabled people facing controversial “fitness for work” tests.
The regulations - part of the rules that shape the work capability assessment (WCA), which tests eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA) - state that a person should not be found fit for work if such a decision would pose “a substantial risk” to their “mental or physical health.”
Activists claim the WCA has been linked with relapses, self-harm and even suicides among those who have been assessed.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said it would be notifying members about the two regulations by including the information in newsletters published by its general practitioners committee – which represents all NHS GPs in the UK – and the committee’s chair.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA council, said: “The BMA position remains that the work capability assessment process should be scrapped with immediate effect and replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to the weakest and most vulnerable people in society.
“The BMA has consistently lobbied politicians on this issue in the past few years and will continue to do so.
“We will ensure that our members are informed about the current regulations around work capability assessments, so as to help patients get the best outcome for their needs.”
John McArdle, the Edinburgh-based co-founder of grassroots campaign group Black Triangle - which has been working to raise awareness of the regulations - welcomed the move but said the BMA had taken “a hell of a long time” to agree to inform GPs.
He said: “A lot of lives could have been saved in that time and a lot of people could have been saved from trauma and destitution.”
In 2012, doctors at the BMA’s annual representative meeting voted for the organisation to “demand” that the WCA should end completely.