A FORMER chef had his sickness benefits stopped — while he was in hospital recovering from emergency brain surgery.

Rana Ahmed collapsed with a brain haemorrhage and stroke and had to undergo an urgent operation.

And it was while the 59-year-old from Bolton was recovering at Salford Royal Hospital that a social entitlement tribunal upheld a Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) ruling that he was fit to work.

Mr Ahmed, who collapsed on June 26, had to live off scraps, and at one stage went three weeks without eating, before he turned to the Unemployed Advice Centre (UAC) in Deansgate for help following the tribunal on July 9.

Despite having had brain surgery, the DWP told Mr Ahmed, from Bold Street, to reapply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) as the nature of his illness has “changed”.

A letter sent to him in hospital following the tribunal said: “The tribunal has confirmed the (DWP) decision maker’s opinion that you do not have a limited capability for work.”

This took nearly two weeks to complete — another period when Mr Ahmed received no income.

Denise Lonsdale, aged 59, the manager of the UAC, said: “It’s outrageous, especially as Mr Ahmed’s English is not very good.

“When I spoke to the DWP and outlined our concerns, all they did was say we can’t help you, you’ll have to reapply.

“In the meantime he had no money, and the food parcels the government provide are not suitable for him.”

“We had to ward off pursuits for his rent, which he obviously couldn’t pay because he had no income.”

An exhausted Mr Ahmed was too unwell to speak to The Bolton News and slept on a bed delivered to the UAC as an emergency measure.

He originally claimed Employment Support Allowance in April, 2012 after being forced to give up his part-time work at two Bolton restaurants because of high blood pressure.

Despite experiencing headaches and blackouts, the DWP ruled Mr Ahmed was fit to return to work after he completed a capability questionnaire last year — a decision he appealed.

The manager of A’la Pizza and Rooster restaurant in Deane Road, who did not want to be named, confirmed they let Mr Ahmed go because he had become too ill to work.

“He was a very good chef for us, but it is a physically demanding and stressful job and his hands were shaking at times and he could not lift pans up,” he said.

“It was clear he was not well as he could barely cope with the heat from the cooker.

“He was a loyal man who my boss brought from London about seven years ago especially to cook in the restaurant.”

Ms Lonsdale, from Tonge Fold, said “ludicrous” DWP capabiltiy questionnaires are too narrow in their focus to be effective.

“They are making a decision when they are not medically qualified,” she added.

“It’s got to the point where if you can lift your own hand you are fit for work — but it’s never as simple as that.

“There is not enough work out there for able-bodied people, let alone people who are clearly ill.”

The DWP declined to comment directly on the case, but said capability assessments are important because “conditions affect different people in different ways”.

A spokesman said: “A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough face-to-face assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant.”

According to NHS choices, “poorly controlled high blood pressure” is one of several things that are known to increase the risk of developing an aneurysm or haemorrhage.

On September 10, six weeks after Mr Ahmed’s welfare payments were initially stopped, his housing and sickness benefits were reinstated after a doctor submitted evidence to the DWP to verify Mr Ahmed’s surgery.