Kidney failure Royal Free patient left ‘unsupported’ as benefit shake-up looms

PUBLISHED: 16:48 25 January 2012

Gerald Lamb, who is blind and has kidney failure, with his wife Elizabeth. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Gerald Lamb, who is blind and has kidney failure, with his wife Elizabeth. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

The wife of a blind man with advanced kidney failure says she has been left unsupported by the Royal Free Hospital’s social work team as the couple face sweeping changes to their benefits.

Changes in welfare benefits: the facts

* Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was introduced in 1992 to help disabled people with the extra costs they face, and is paid to two million people.

* Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) would see claimants taking up-front disability tests and then undergoing regular assessments to be eligible for payments.

* Critics of the change say it will mean 500,000 people will lose benefits.

* The Department for Work and Pensions insists the DLA is in need of urgent reform, and that under PIP a greater proportion of people will be eligible for the higher rate of help.

Gerard Lamb, 50, who has diabetes and is due to start dialysis at the Hampstead hospital this spring, is facing possible changes to his benefits payments because of welfare reforms currently being discussed in Parliament.

His wife Elizabeth, who washes, cloths and cares for her husband five days a week, says the hospital in Pond Street has failed to give her the advice and support she needs to navigate the proposed new system.

Mrs Lamb, 43, who works part time at Waitrose in The Broadway, Crouch End, said: “It is a very stressful time and I am on an edge.

“I need that support more than ever and the Royal Free was in the best position to provide it because they have experience of the medical and benefits systems. But it is not being offered.”

The Ham&High exclusively reported in November that the Royal Free had suspended its renal social work unit, which provides benefits advice to patients, due to staff sickness.

The hospital is currently looking for another organisation to take over the service.

In its absence Mrs Lamb has sought help from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

But she remains uncertain of what the proposed replacement of the Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments will mean for her husband.

The cashier, who lives with her husband in Wood Green, said: “I don’t blame Gerard one bit for his illnesses, that I can cope with.

“But I can’t cope with the benefits changes that are going to make my husband sit new medicals.”

Mrs Lamb said the clinical care her husband receives at the hospital is “faultless” and credits a consultant with transforming her husband’s care after he diagnosed Mr Lamb’s kidney problem.

But the lack of welfare support has left her struggling to cope.

A hospital spokeswoman said the decision to suspend the decision was “not taken lightly” and followed advice from a consultant that it was unsafe to continue given staff absences.

She said: “We have decided to tender the renal social work service so we can design a service that better meets the needs of patients.

“We have written to all renal patients to inform them and give them contact details of their social services departments.”

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