GPs in some of Scotland's most deprived areas have called for debt and welfare advice centres to be given NHS branding to help highlight the help available to patients.

The proposal is made in a new report from GPs at the Deep End, a group of family doctors with practices serving the 100 most deprived populations in Scotland.

The report calls for GPs and other primary care services to do more to mitigate the impact of welfare reforms, which it says are having a significant effect on the health of patients, causing "hardship, uncertainty and anxiety", and in some cases exacerbating the problems of those with mental health problems, addictions or cognitive impairment.

Patients' health problems can be worsened due to stress or financial hardship, but while GPs often see patients whose health is being affected by issues such as low income, benefit sanctions or reassessment of their capacity to work, many doctors have limited knowledge of how the system works, the report says.

GPs have to provide information in support of initial benefit claims but often don't know the outcome or enough about how they can play a part, the report says. "Often GPs are aware of relevant mental health issues, complicating the effects of physical conditions, but DWP assessment criteria focus on the latter, rather than the former."

The report argues that doctors should do more to help patients navigate the benefits system and direct them towards financial help or other advice. However GPs are unlikely to have the time to do so, unless it decreases their overall workload, particularly in the most deprived communities where primary care services are already under strain, the report says.

"Work generating initiatives are unlikely to be taken up," it adds.

Although GPs have more contact with patients in deprived areas than almost any other social service, very few referrals to advice services area made by the NHS, the report says, with health visitors referring more people than doctors do. "Consistent branding of advice services (using the NHS logo) was thought to be encouraging for patients and a way of highlighting the connected nature of different parts of local systems services," the report says.

"GPs are often asked to provide supporting medical information for benefit applications and appeals, but are not necessarily well informed about changes to the benefits system or the availability of support services."

The report also suggests training sessions for GPs on welfare rules and local advice services, while some practices could have welfare rights officers attached to them and local health fairs using a 'speed dating' model could introduce potential colleagues to each other, breaking down silos between advice centres and GP practices.

The report comes as a campaign on behalf of people with disabilities calls on GPs to do more to help patients whose health may be compromised by mistaken decisions that they are fit for work.

The Black Triangle campaign is calling on the British Medical Association to do more to promote a rule which allows doctors to intervene if a decision might harm a patient. The DWPs regulations 29 and 35 allow for GPs to report concerns if being declared fit for work would put a patients mental or physical health at "substantial risk".

John McCardle, spokesman for the campaign, said many patients with chronic conditions ore even terminal illnesses had been declared fit for work, and some had had been so distressed by DWP decisions they had taken their own lives: "We are hoping to meet with the BMA in the new year. There should be a reporting mechanism for patients who are at substantial risk of harm to themselves or others if declared fit for work. This is needed to prevent further tragedies, but benefit appeals have been a huge burden in terms of increased workload for GPs and the BMA have been resistant."

However a letter in support of a patient could be written in "little more than the time it would take to write a prescription," he claimed.

Dr Graham Watt, a spokesman for the Deep End GPs group said: "In practice, helping patients with benefits applications and appeals is something that has to be done. But it falls most on Deep ENd practices, which are already hard pressed, without any extra resource.".