A FORMER nurse who suffers from a chronic lung condition has hit out at Government officials for cutting his benefits after he was deemed fit for work.

Michael Easby, from Darlington, was forced to give up work as an accident and emergency nurse last year, when he was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD).

The 51-year-old was also recently diagnosed with a bowel tumour as well as suffering from post-traumatic stress following an assault during his time as a nurse at Darlington Memorial Hospital.

Mr Easby said his benefits had dropped to £71 per week from more than £200.

He was declared fit to work last year, following an assessment on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

An appeal earlier this year was unsuccessful and Mr Easby is waiting for another assessment, based on his latest health prognosis, after which he expects the ‘fit for work’ tag will be removed.

He feels he has been punished by the DWP, which said his case was "complicated".

Mr Easby said: “I spent years working as an A&E nurse, it was my dream job, but I became more and more poorly and I had to give it up, which broke my heart.

“I understand that the Government is trying to get people back to work and there has been this benefit culture for years, where whole generations of families have claimed.

“It is that kind of people that they should be targeting, I have worked all my life.”

COPD is one of the leading causes of death among smokers, although some people can have a genetic risk of developing the condition.

Mr Easby, a former smoker whose late mother had COPD, said he has suffered financial hardship as a result of moving from Employment Support Allowance (ESA), formerly Incapacity Benefit, to the lower Rate of Jobseekers Allowance.

He said: “I cannot afford to eat after paying out so much for my bills each week. Weight is just falling off me, I have gone from 13 stone to under seven stone. I look and feel really ill, it’s a sad state of affairs.”

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

“Since 2010 we have considerably improved the Work Capability Assessment process.

“The percentage of people entitled to ESA is at its highest level with over half of people completing [an assessment] eligible for the benefit, but everyone has the right to appeal a decision if they disagree with it.”