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Severely ill inpatient died after DWP forced him to leave hospital to make benefit claim

12 January 2022

A coroner has called on the DWP to make urgent policy changes, after it ordered a disabled patient to leave hospital to visit a jobcentre despite being severely ill with a condition that later killed him, disabilitynewsservice.com has highlighted.

The call for urgent action has come in a prevention of future deaths (PFD) report, the latest in a series of such letters to be sent to DWP by coroners over the last 12 years following the department’s repeated failure to ensure the safety of disabled benefit claimants.

Health professionals had told an inquest into the death of Terence Talbot that they had never heard of such a “severely ill inpatient” being told by DWP to leave hospital to make a benefit claim in person.

Mr. Talbot was being treated for drug hypersensitivity syndrome, while also being detained under the Mental Health Act, because of a rare reaction to medication that had been prescribed for his mental distress.

The severe allergic reaction had left him “very vulnerable to infection”, but DWP refused to allow him to submit a claim for benefits electronically.

Instead, he was told to leave hospital and attend his local jobcentre in person.

He later died in Maidstone Hospital, on 9 April 2020, aged 58, from multi-organ failure caused by the lung conditions pneumonia and empyema, which themselves were caused by drug hypersensitivity syndrome (also known as DRESS syndrome).

Sonia Hayes, assistant coroner for Mid Kent and Medway, wrote to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey last month to warn her that other claimants could die if she did not make urgent changes to how DWP deals with such cases.

She told Therese Coffey in the PFD letter – also known as a Regulation 28 report – that DWP had “required Terence Talbot to attend in person to make a claim for benefits rather than accept an electronic claim”.

The coroner said she had been told by “all the doctors and a senior nurse in this case” that they had “never experienced nor heard of a case” where such a “severely ill inpatient” was required by DWP to “leave hospital to attend its offices in person to make a claim for welfare benefits”.

She said Mr. Talbot had been experiencing mental distress and “an exceptionally rare and complex disease with a risk of death and suffering severe exfoliative dermatitis that rendered him very vulnerable to infection”.

The Work and Pensions Secretary has to respond to the coroner’s report by 28 January.

For more information see Coroner: DWP ‘must act’ after it told severely ill patient to leave hospital to make claim available from disabilitynewsservice.com.

A copy of the Prevention of Future Deaths report is available from judiciary.uk.

See also our related news story Bereaved families write second letter to Secretary of State to demand public inquiry into benefit related deaths.