Changes to ‘Special rules’ for benefit payments: A primary care perspective
As GPs we have an important role in supporting people towards the end of their life and this doesn’t just mean managing physical symptoms. Along with helping people navigate this difficult time psychologically, we are able to facilitate practical support that people may need, including helping them to find ways to support any financial challenges.
Patients don’t always understand their financial rights and as primary care teams, having a clear understanding of what people can access and how we can support them to do so can be vital.
Although there isn’t a specific benefit for people who are terminally ill, certain benefits, listed below, can now be paid much more quickly, at a higher rate and without a medical assessment. Until recently, this was only applicable to those identified as being in the last 6 months of their life but now for some of these benefits, Universal Credit (UC) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA), this now applies to those in the last 12 months of their life.
- Attendance Allowance – disability benefit for pensioners
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – disability benefit for people of working age
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – disability benefit for children aged under 16
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – for working age people who are too poorly to work
- Universal Credit – a means-tested benefit for people of working age.
We should all have a Practice Supportive and Palliative Care patient list with people added as we feel they enter what might be their last year of life.
The changes above should encourage us to discuss any financial support someone might need at that time or facilitate these discussions with other members of the team such as Social Prescribers.
An SR1 form then can then be completed for UC or ESA. Currently, the other benefits remain expedited for people within their last 6 months of life and the DS1500 form remains in place for these patients although the plan is to make all 5 benefits expedited for those in the last year of life, at which point the SR1 form will be used for all.
In addition, Macmillan has worked with Boots and the NHS to launch a Palliative Care Service in its pharmacies. This service is designed to provide ease of access to vital medicines, specialist pharmacist advice and support to patients and their carers at the end of life by developing an online stock checking tool and maintaining stock of required medicines.
To support the implementation of this new service, all 4,200 Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists have received additional palliative care training.
If your patients have any questions or concerns affecting their treatment or care, we are here to listen through our Macmillan Support Line, whether that be finances, work or other queries that are affecting your care or treatment.