DWP Policy Group Freedom of Information Team
Our Ref: FOI2019/12150
5 April 2019
Dear Frank Zola,
Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FoI) request received on 24 March. You asked: What legislation or other statutory basis does the DWP rely upon when ensuring a claimant
has consented for their GP to be sent the claimant personal data included in an ESA65B letter:
'any doctor treating the claimant,
being informed about the Secretary of State’s determination on– limited capability for work –
limited capability for work-related activity, or– both'
How does the DWP currently obtain consent from claimants to send the ESA65B letter to a
patients Doctor or GP? Please provide copies of the information you hold that shows how such
consent is obtained and again what legislation or other statutory basis this consent is obtained.
In the 2010 version of the ESA65B letter it contained the following fit-note/medical-statement-
guidance to a GP/Doctor:
"...you may have to give your patient new medical statements [fit notes] if
- they decide to appeal against our decision
- their condition gets significantly worse
- they have a new medical condition"
Does the above "ESA65B 04/10" statement and guidance to Doctors/GPs remain correct/still
apply? In the current ESA65B letter this "ESA65B 04/10" fit-note/medical-statement-guidance
has been removed, when did it's removal from an ESA65B letter first start and who authorised
it's removal and why was it removed?
The Freedom of Information Act gives you a legal right of access to any recorded information
held by a public authority. We do not have to provide opinions or explanations, generate
answers to questions, or create or obtain information we do not hold.
If you ask a question, rather than requesting recorded information, we will provide you with the
recorded information that best answers the question. Once we have provided the recorded
information, we have met our obligations under the Act; interpreting the information provided is
up to you.
In answer to your first and second questions, there is no legislative or statutory provision that
applies in these circumstances so the DWP relies on consent. Consent is gathered when a
claim is made and again on the ESA50 Capability for Work questionnaire and it is currently in-
cluded in the declaration section of the relevant forms. An example of the declaration can be
found on page 23 of the ESA50 Capability for Work questionnaire on the link below. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/756053/esa-
If a claimant states that they do not agree to information about the determination of their WCA
being shared with their GP, the claim will be maintained clerically and the papers noted that
the letter is not to be issued.
Answering your third question:
I can confirm that the Department holds this information. However, the information is exempt
under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act because the information is reasonably
accessible to you, as it is already in the public domain.
However, to be helpful you can find the information you seek below.
GPs don’t have to provide fit notes where their patient has been found fit for work fol-
lowing a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) unless:
their patient’s condition gets worse
their patient develops a new disability or health condition
their patient asks the GP for evidence for a reconsideration or appeal against a
The revised version of the ESA65B includes the following link to guidance for GPs on
when to issue fit notes: www.gov.uk/government/publications/fit-note-guidance-for-gps.
This guidance includes a link to a broader publication on the benefits system aimed
specifically at GPs, which is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-short-guide-to-the-benefit-system-for-general-practitioners
this guide includes information on what to do when a claimant is appealing, where their
condition worsens or if they develop a new condition.
This guidance is correct and still applies.
The Department introduced the revised version of the ESA65B in August 2017 following
discussion with medical organisations representing GPs, which began in 2016.
DWP routinely works with a range of stakeholders to ensure our claimant communica-
tions are as clear as possible. The final wording in such communications is authorised
by DWP Ministers or officials acting on their behalf.
The wording was amended to make the letter simpler and clearer, to emphasise the
benefits of work for disabled people and those with health conditions, and to ask GPs to
encourage their patients in their efforts to find, or return to, some form of work.
However, we recognise that’s GPs have not found the letter clear in relation to claim-
ants pursuing appeals. We are updating it with input from medical organisations and in-
tend to clarify this with GPs in the meantime.
If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me quoting the reference number
DWP Policy Group FoI Team
Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act
If you are not happy with this response you may request an internal review by e-mailing freedom-of-information-
or by writing to DWP, Central FoI Team, Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9NA. Any
review request should be submitted within two months of the date of this letter.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may apply directly to the Information
Commissioner’s Office for a decision. General y the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have
exhausted our own complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information
Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF https://ico.org.uk/Global/contact_us
or telephone 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745