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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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New guidance for medics will fast track terminally ill benefit claimants


A more humane, less bureaucratic system has been established in Scotland

New guidance on terminal illness has been published to support benefit applications.

Terminally ill people in Scotland can be fast-tracked for the highest amount of benefits even if they have years to live.

Scottish Government guidance has now been published for doctors and nurses on how they can help their terminally ill patients get financial help.

The guidance, from Scotland’s chief medical officer, sets out the role doctors and nurses play, and what they should consider, in ensuring terminally ill patients get fast access to the disability benefits they are entitled to.

People who are terminally ill can apply under the “special rules” process. This fast-tracks their application as soon as Social Security Scotland receives an assessment form from a doctor or nurse, confirming the applicant is terminally ill.

The Department for Work and Pensions regards someone as terminally ill if they are expected to die within a year. Social Security Scotland does not require a fixed life expectancy.

This means doctors or nurses do not need to estimate how long a patient has left to live before they can complete the forms. The different definition was brought in to ensure people who are terminally ill receive the support they are entitled to as soon as possible.

Tom McLavin, 62, is among those benefiting from the new definition. The Fife man was diagnosed with incurable cancer 18-months ago and applied for Adult Disability Payment under the special rules process.

Tom said: “Adult Disability Payment is important because having cancer is a job in itself. In an average month I’ll have blood tests at one hospital, pick up my chemotherapy pills at another and then have scans at yet another one.

“Sometimes I can take the car but sometimes I need to take the bus. If I’m suffering from nausea or having fainting spells someone has to come with me as well. It isn’t cheap.

“All credit to Social Security Scotland. Everything went through very quickly. There are forms to fill in but if you have a line from your doctor or your nurse it’s very straightforward.”

The definition of terminal illness we use was agreed after listening to organisations who support people who are terminally ill.

Amy Dalrymple, associate director of policy and public affairs, at Marie Curie said: “Having a terminal illness can place a huge financial burden on people and can plunge them into – or even further into - poverty simply for being too unwell to work.

“Far too often we hear harrowing stories people have faced when dealing with financial insecurity.

“We hope the publication of this new guidance will lead to greater awareness and clarity among GPs and other professionals about their role in making sure people receive financial support at end of life, and lead to more people getting the support they need.”

The definition of terminal illness used by Social Security Scotland was agreed after listening to organisations who support people who are terminally ill.



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