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Protesters tell doctors to ‘remember their ethics’ as they block Old Street roundabout

PUBLISHED: 17:31 04 March 2016 | UPDATED: 17:57 04 March 2016

Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions, was targeted during the protest. A man, wearing a face mask of the Conservative MP, handed out mock job prescriptions to the crowd

Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions, was targeted during the protest. A man, wearing a face mask of the Conservative MP, handed out mock job prescriptions to the crowd

Archant

Raucous protesters blocked Old Street roundabout as they accused Islington Council of being “compliant in cruelty” this afternoon.

A protester dressed as a squirrel outside City Road Medical CentreA protester dressed as a squirrel outside City Road Medical Centre

They were campaigning against the authority’s “working better” pilot scheme. This allows GPs to refer unemployed patients with long-term health barriers to job coaches stationed within surgeries - though it is strictly voluntary.

The loud protest started outside City Road Medical Centre - one of six Islington surgeries taking part in the pilot - and targeted Islington’s Labour council leader Richard Watts as well as Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions.

The protest moved to Old Street roundabout, where traffic was briefly brought to a standstill until the demonstration ended around half an hour ago.

Paula Peters, of Disabled People Against Cuts, had told the 100-strong crowd: “They will roll this out across the country.

Paula Peters, of Disabled People Against Cuts, addresses the 100-strong crowd outside City Road Medical CentrePaula Peters, of Disabled People Against Cuts, addresses the 100-strong crowd outside City Road Medical Centre

“Our message to doctors is, ‘remember you ethics’. There seems to be an attitide of employability being a health solution.

“Mental health patients will be placed under so much pressure. Instead of health, surgeries will be places of bullying, and sanctions.”

Dr Mona Kamal, a phychiatrist, joined the protest and said: “They want doctors to be compliant in cruelty. They are basically telling us our number one priority the department of work and pensions.

“Doctors don’t prescribe jobs. We prescribe care and treatment. That’s all we want to do and will not allow being bullied into abandoning our duty of care.”

But in a statement, Cllr Watts said: “Islington Council has long been on the side of our most vulnerable residents as we continue to fight against the government’s benefit cuts, which threaten disabled people’s ability to exercise independence in their lives.

“To be clear: the ‘working better’ scheme is entirely voluntary and not linked, in any way, to any welfare-to-work conditionality or sanctions regime.

“This is not about work being a ‘cure’ for people’s health conditions. It’s about doing more to break down barriers and make employment support services more accessible and inclusive to those who want to benefit from them.

“I’d very much like to invite anyone who might have concerns about the scheme to come and meet us so we can discuss them in detail.”

Islington Clinical Commissioning Group added that patients who join the scheme are able to leave at any time.

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