7 January 2014
What: Coroner Mary Hassell concludes that the trigger for Michael O’Sullivan’s suicide was his assessment as being fit for work. She writes a prevention of future deaths report to DWP, saying that “there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken”, and raising matters of concern, including that the assessors did not take into account evidence from Michael’s doctors. The report is dated 13 January 2014. In its response to the PFD, DWP says it will send a reminder to staff about the need to seek further medical evidence in “cases where claimants report suicidal ideation in their claim forms which regrettably was not followed in this case”. It also provides significant background detail about ESA and the WCA, points out that there is an ongoing legal case around the need for further medical evidence (see 4 December 2013), and insists that the WCA is “under continual review and development”. It concludes: “We will also issue a reminder to staff about the guidance related to suicidal ideation that has been described in this report.”
Why significant: This was the second prevention of future deaths (PFD) report to be sent to DWP by a coroner that linked the WCA – and the failure to seek further medical evidence from the healthcare professionals who have treated a claimant with a mental health condition before deciding on their eligibility for ESA – with a claimant’s suicide. But the existence of these two PFD reports would not emerge until the autumn of 2015.