Sep 082012

Many thanks to Chris Coltrane for agreeing to us re-posting this. If only it was unbelievable.

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Last Friday I took part in the protest outside the offices of Atos, the company who won the contract to decide whether disabled people are disabled enough to receive benefits.

In the UK, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being replaced with the controversial Personal Independent Payment (PIP). DLA fraud stands at a paltry 0.5%. Nevertheless, the government wants to bring fraud to an end. To do this, the government has commissioned Atos to remove the new PIP from 20% of disability claimants. Which is a bit like punishing one child from skipping football by setting fire to the gym.

Of course, a far higher percentage than 0.5% of MPs were found to be cheating their expenses. But it would be wrong to punish MPs, because, you know. Because. Wait, what was my point again?

The consequences of Atos’s decisions are sickening. My friend Polly has a severe form of Crohn’s disease. She’s been given countless different medications, and operations to remove parts of her small intestine. In fact, her Crohn’s is so resistant to the strongest medications and surgery available that she was referred to an experimental chemotherapy and stem cell transplant medical trial. If Crohn’s were a video game, she is playing it on hardest difficulty, with no cheat codes and a broken controller.

Atos sent a doctor to assess whether she could re-qualify for benefits. On arrival, he told her that he’d never heard of Crohn’s Disease. Forgive me for being pedantic, but a doctor who hasn’t heard of Crohn’s Disease isn’t a doctor. That’s like a dentist who hasn’t heard of gums, or a plumber that’s never heard of pipes. Imagine police officers coming to your house after your telly has been stolen, only to find that they’d never heard of “burglary”. They then suggest that you shouldn’t complain because you’ve got enough possessions to be getting on with, after which they hand you a bill for wasting police time, and make you work in Poundland for free to pay it off.

I had heard rumours that Atos doctors mark people down if their illness isn’t visible. Which seemed ludicrous even for Atos. As if the only three kind of illnesses are eczema, nosebleeds and an unfortunate haircut. Cancer? Look mate, unless you’ve got cancer of the face, we’re not interested. Get back to work!

Sadly, Polly has confirmed the rumour. One of the very few notes the Atos doctor wrote was “No obvious external signs of generalised systemic disease found”. Because for most people, their intestines are an external organ. Fashionistas like to stylishly wrap them around their hips, like a kind of pulsating belt. I hear the trend in Milan this season is to wear your intestines as a scarf, to keep your neck warm.

I reckon the doctor was there on a workfare scheme. Perhaps even the people who set the criteria for what constitutes as an illness are unqualified workfare temps. That might explain why we suddenly seem to have forgotten the past 150 years of medical and social progress, and are instead guessing whether someone is ill based on whether they can raise their arms, and walk five metres. (Those are genuinely the only two physical tests Polly’s Atos doctor used to see if she was disabled.)

Atos must have just told the doctor to learn medicine on the job. It’s obvious if they’re ill: just look for open wounds. If you can’t see directly into their heart, they’re good for work. Accept nothing less than four missing limbs. And if you get stuck, just remember this handy mnemonic: If The Patient Isn’t Bleeding, They’re Probably Misleading™.

If the aim of this exercise truly was to rid the system of the 0.5% of fraudulent claims, the government wouldn’t need to give everyone such shockingly inhumane treatment. They certainly wouldn’t need to take the benefit away from 19.5% of genuinely disabled people. They wouldn’t need to send doctors who are woefully under-qualified. And Atos definitely wouldn’t need to get their doctors to sign the Official Secrets Act to stop them from whistle-blowing.

But, like all their policies, their real motivation is not the one they claim in public. Their motivation is simply to reduce government spending, to reduce their own personal tax bill, and to sell public services to the companies they themselves own, to become even richer still. And if disabled people have to suffer, and die, to make it happen: well, who cares?

Not the Tories, that’s for sure.


[suffusion-the-author display='description']
 Posted by at 18:52

  27 Responses to “ATOS DOCTORS – hard to believe but…”

  1. Surely, if a nurse is taking these examinations it has got to be illegal!
    I cannot pass myself off as a Nurse,Dcotor, or anything else in the medical profession,I would be charged !
    Only a qualified Doctor is allowed to diagnose an illness, & I hope someone will sue this firm, in these cases.
    What next, are they going to be allowed to sign death certificates, carry out post mortems, the mind boggles!

  2. Hi I have M.E. and ASTHMA and have done for 17 years unable to return to any kind of work. I had my atos assessment the other day. Two weeks prior i requested a g.p and a recorded assessment. Atos were at times, not all staff, but at times with certain people were very very rude, ignorant and nasty to me, for exampe just because i telephoned them myself , i was sarcasticly asked am i ringing on this persons behalf. I replied that as long as i have a tongue that works ,i will speak for myself thankyou! I also found them trying their best to put me off a recording ect. Anyways i rang 4 times in total before my medical ect to follow up my requests. The day before my medical ,they said that they would record for me and that they were fetching it in a taxi! mine was the first app, when i arrived after my hubby dropping me off at the door and on my request, asked him to not come in with me, after all ive been many times over the past 17 years and have passed always. When signing in the young guy asked me how id arrived, my hubby, i replied, 5 mins later he asked me the same question, i replied my hubby, i just told you that! Then i had to sign papers ect and the young guy gave me a pen on a rope! but not just any pen on a rope , but a very short rope! so short that one may have had to dragg ones heavy chair ,as so over to reach! I DID NOT AS COULD NOT! i said to him my pen wont reach, he replied, oh i know its a pain! but never offered me his own pen which he was holding, .I did not let it bother me , but will advise you all DO TAKE A PEN these people are pathetic and disgraceful. Im not blaming that young inexperienced in life man, his ignorance is prob part of his current job, Alas i went to the waitng room, 4 people in there, all with the exact time 9 oclock , a lady said we will be here 3 hours as theres only 1 nurse today, my heart sank, to see these poor people looking so poorly and afraid. My name was called out first by a smiling lady who walked very fast! PLEASE COULD YOU SLOW DOWN i said as we walked the long lengthy corridoors , i cant walk like that, she didn t seem to listen! so i just went slowly , my ususal. Then we are in the room, i see a medium size recorder, she got me to sign and off we went!
    Throughout the assessment the nurse was very polite to me, very patient as i explained about my health, M.E. ect and how it effects my daily life, she never intterupted me at all, and i spoke freely throughout the assessment. She saw me get a little upset , when i was asked about my ability and what i used to do, as I too was a nurse! she told me to take my time ect and gave me tissues. I have to say at no time was she rude or sarcastic or dissmissive to me, so i was calm throughout . She didint do a full physical with me , she advised that she didnt want to go any further, there was a bed with a big step which i said i cant get up on unless you help me, she replied im not allowed to, but you can refuse thats ok, so i declined!
    The medical lasted 1 hour , which im told is normal, she asked me was there anything to add! i expressed the reasons that im not fit for work, as there is no employers who will allow me to lie down and rest ect every 15 to 30 mins for 1 hour at a time! which is my daily norm. I WANT TO SAY TO YOU ALL, REQUEST A REORDING AS, WE ALL HAVE A RIGHT TO ONE, i have attended many of medicals and this was my first recording and i feel that it is the best thing you can do for youself!, it was the best medical yet for me , as the nurse was indeed very, kind and listened! I dont know if i have passed yet, if i dont i will appeal. I again advice you all , request request request, ring atos before you go ,to check its there for you, they cant refuse , but you can refuse if you turn up on the day and they have no recorder, they have to re book you! So my experience wasnt negative, maybe due to my recording! ect the nurse was on best form, she walked me to the reception , touched my hand and said all the best and gave to me my cd copy! which i can now use as evidence at any appeal ect. I did note sadly as i was leaving , that the people were indeed still sat waiting, so i think all recordings app are first, yes , my app time was spot on! good luck to you all, fight for your rights, dont be bullied, by atos, simply get a recording and you may find that your experience at the medical is better.then you thought, for me now a RECORDING EVERY TIME, the medicals thow and the questions asked are indeed a farce, and by the way I did NOT get a G.P. which i also requested , app we can only get a recording .regards

  3. Saw Atos doctor recently home medical exam for AA, I have an inoperable torn cartlidge and heart failure. Dr glassby GP neither a cardiologist or orthopaedic surgeon /specialist sent to carry out medical assessment for which as a GP he is unqualified to do. This Doctor (?) asked lots of closed questions and wrote his notes before I finished my explanation. On receipt of the DWP rejection letter which copies of the quacks report were enclosed, to my absolute anger I found forms completed by the quack which I was never asked about or consulted. These related specifically to my mobility ability, and need for assistance which I was never asked about therefore it was never discussed, I was denied therefore my rights to have my say. The DWPs non medically qualified staff have downgraded my heart condition described by my GP following a report from my cardiologist as moderate to mild. The Atos quack, when asked why a GP had been sent to assess complex medical issues for which as a GP he is unqualified to do replied with a silly grin on his face, ah but we receive training. He refused to discuss his training, my suspicion is that his training consisted mainly of interrogation techniques. In forcing this system on the very people least able to defend themselves, we need to ask if Cameron, Clegg, Osbourne, and Cable are Fascists.

  4. Just tried to mail the Medical Council .. couldn’t a direct email route
    mailing everyone I can think of dispatches, panorama, watchdog.
    Dom Little, MP, local councillor .. I’m thinking if collectively enough
    noise & pressue is presented .. then eventally the matter will be
    raised in Parliament where one would hope good sense will
    prevail ( not holding my breath on that one but fingers XXX )

  5. Surely ATOS employees are in breach of this ethical code

    The Physician’s Oath was codified in the Declaration of Geneva (1948) by the World Medical Association.[1]

    It was adopted by the General Assembly of the World Medical Association, Geneva, Switzerland, September 1948 and amended by the 22nd World Medical Assembly, Sydney, Australia, August 1968.[2]

    [edit] Purpose of the Physician’s Oath (1948)

    This oath seems to be a response to the atrocities committed by the physicians in Nazi Germany.[3] Notably, this oath requires the physician to “not use [his or her] medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.”[4] This document was adopted by the World Medical Association only three months before the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which provides for the security of the person.[3]

    Upon a physician’s retirement, the “Physician’s Oath on Retirement” is being proposed “to address the moral, psychological, social, and cultural responsibilities that a physician assumes when voluntarily relinquishing the responsibilities of active medical practice.”[5]

    [edit] The Physician’s Oath

    At the time of being admitted as a member of the medical profession:
    I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
    I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude which is their due;
    I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;
    The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
    I will respect the secrets which are confided in me;
    I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
    My colleagues will be my brothers and sisters;
    I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, gender, politics, socioeconomic standing, or sexual orientation to intervene between my duty and my patient;
    I will maintain the utmost respect for human life; even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity;
    I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.[6]

  6. if we don’t look after our seniors what are we gonna tell our juniors & infants ?

  7. this is utterley unbelieveable that it could happen in this once great Britain
    have we realy descended so low in the chain of human development that
    we can allow others to pick on the weakest. someone tell ATOS that they
    should start building gas chambers too

  8. Great comments, well done all. I want to get up off my butt and do something to help DPAC. I have writing skills, used to campaign (anti-poll tax, Brent Private Tenants’ Rights, Green party, Save Rutland Mansions, Stop Roadbuilding Campaign and others) but for the last few years have existed in dusty folios reading for a postgraduate degree. Lani Parker knows a little about me. What can I do to help?

  9. Severe Dyslexia is defined by law but yet when you go ATOS dyslexia disappears from the medical report they tell you that you have no cognitive difficulties they tell you there is no memory problems or learning or understanding difficulties . The real truth is they have not got a clue!!!!!!!

    The assessor Records the patient’s answers given in an interview, and makes the decision based on points. It’s all very straightforward. What could possibly go wrong? Assessments being inaccurate reflection Such as what the client said, dates, missing info, medical letters not noted. Conditions not noted. Name wrong, what you were wearing, how long you were in the assessment. Lack of understanding of neurological conditions serially poor and in documentation of the disability. People with mental health problems are having such a hard time at the DWP medicals as the assessors are not required to hold specialist qualifications or experience in mental health conditions. I’ve found that no two consultant psychiatrists can always agree on diagnoses after several lengthy evaluations + case conferences. Hard to see how someone having undertaken a couple of study modules could possibly be fit to recognise and assess mental conditions. Assessors didn’t have a clue about dyslexia and actually admitted they never heard of it and thought it was just a spelling difficulty. i had to explain how neurological conditions effected you social a stress related illness . It was so obvious that they did not see the connection either, so the interview was based on guess work. How can someone with probably a couple of weeks in a classroom be capable of assessing something that may have taken nurses and psychs years of training and then decide they know better. When you receive your medical report dyslexia is not noted or it will state no conative problems no learning disability no nothing , a clear indication that something is dreadfully going wrong. And with people with learning difficulties find it hard to go through the whole complaints and appeals processthat can causes anxiety and stress.
    If you started off with a healthy state of mind this sort of treatment would make sure one ended up completely stressed and unable to cope. It is actually disgraceful when you complain to ATOAit as its one sided, for the doctor. This assessment is flawed for several reasons. Firstly, the data gathering process is inaccurate and rushed. Staff carrying out the assessment have strict targets and are expected to get through five assessments in a morning or afternoon session, which allows about 45 minutes per assessment at most. been through the the examiner spent their time looking at the computer rather than paying attention. Once the examination is over the examiner produces a report that may bear little resemblance to the patient’s actual condition. The reports often fail to take into account the variable nature of many illnesses. What the patient can do on one day is by no means representative of what they can do the next, and for someone who is chronically sick or disabled, each task in itself may be achievable but exhaustion and pain can often prevent repetition or moving on to the next task.

  10. DMs’ Medical Training

    Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions

    very interesting reading

  11. A very well written wax lyrical highlighting the ridiculousness of ATOS and the government idealisms, whilst maintaining the seriousness of this killing reform. Thank you, Chris.

  12. I have been through the testing and like many others I have failed their tests, I was asked to raise a leg and balance and to touch my nose, also to say what the smallest print I can read how this is relevant to chronic narcolepsy I have no idea. I fall asleep several times a day, suffer from dizzy spells and can not go anywhere without an escort. How they can say am fit for work is beyond me

  13. I like thousands of disabled citizens have been through their assessment , I failed, I am a wheelchair user, I was only asked to raise my arms and open my legs ( I don’t know what the latter proved,I hate to think) when my report came back it was apparently a nurse. There was no compassion shown, just answer the questions which she read off a laptop. I was told to slow down several times and repeat what I said because she couldn’t type as fast as I spoke which is normal unless I come from Zog which I would expect to be treated better. My G.P was appalled when I told her and as I am appealing she is going to do a medical report for me which I will serve on them so that I can use it and my G.P has not signed the states official secrets act she like many G.P’s are just being ridden over because this Tory bunch of rich no-bodies yes I said NO BODIES who have gone through life on the shirt tails of relatives know no different.

  14. I think (hope!) if we look hard enough there must be some way WE can prosecute THEM for fraud….I don’t suffer for such severe illnesses as the people mentioned here, but I DO suffer quite badly from arthritis in both knees, which, not surprisingly, means that I can’t – er – kneel!! I also intermittently have severe back pain, which means that I can’t bend down,or indeed stand up straight if I do succeed in bending down. Fortunately, I am now a pensioner, but when I last went for an assessment at what was then the Benefits Agency Medical Services (who now seem like ministering angels in comparison with ATOS!) the doctor wrote on my form ‘no difficulty in bending or kneeling’, and declared me fit for work. Well, I took this to a tribunal, and also wrote to my MP (Glenda Jackson) and won my case….but the thing is, isn’t there a question of professional ethics involved here? I mean, not just professional COMPETENCE (which by all accounts most of these people don’t possess) but professional ETHICS (of which most of them seem not to have heard). Isn’t unprofessional to tell bare-faced lies on people’s assessment forms? And if they do this, should we not be able to report them to their professional body (GMC, I think) and get them struck off??!!!

    • Yes, I think there are a few cases waiting to go before the General Medical Council for just that reason. Hopefully, many more will follow. You’d think that any doctor who had signed the medical pledge would be ashamed of bringing his or her profession into disrepute. Probably why most of them aren’t even qualified doctors.

  15. I have heard so many horror stories about ATOS. A friend of mine has had nine heart attacks. The last one she had was right outside an ATOS medical testing centre, just after she had been declared fit for work.

    I have an ‘invisible illness’ – I have ME, and have been too ill to work for 21 years. I dread that brown envelope dropping through my letterbox, telling me to go for an ATOS medical. Under their current directives, I would be declared fit to work and told to get a job even though I am too ill even to get ready for work in the morning and travel on the bus.

    It’s all about quotas, and somebody higher up telling ATOS doctors – who have probably failed to get work anywhere else, because they’re not up to sufficient standard to work as real doctors – that once they go over their quota of people declared too ill to work, they must declare everyone they see fit for work. That’s why terminally ill people and people who have crippling ‘invisible illnesses’ are being told they’re fit for work. That’s why we are hearing of so many terminally ill people who are having their benefits snatched away, only for them to die months later.

    And this is about demonising the most vulnerable people in society and blaming them for all of society’s ills, to distract our attention away from the real crooks; the super-rich who legally dodge paying billions of pounds in tax, and the banking bosses who sent the economy into meltdown but still help themselves to fat pay packets and bonus packages. The public need someone to blame and someone to hate, and they forget easily. So blame the people who are too ill to stand up for themselves, and too poor to challenge them in the courts. Use the newspapers – the propaganda tools of the government – to shove lies down the public’s throats, until they forget who the real crooks are. It works every time. And none of those who believe the media’s lies ever think that they will become incurably ill themselves, until happens to them.

    • I have “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” and Cyclothemia(mental illness) and partially deaf in both ears.I too am dreading that brown envelope thru my door.All these welfare changes are stressing me out big time and getting me down,even affecting my relationship with my partner.I pray the WCA is scrapped soon!!! We need more demos. I wrote on my last sickness form that if i have to go for another medical i will commit suicide.That was 2010 and they wrote back saying they will reassess me in another year.I have been through work programs and tribunals before this new welfare reform.Who is gonna employ me??? I cant even get up in the morning.My day starts at 12pm.By 3pm I have to lie down again.Hate this country at the mo.Feel so alone!

  16. If only this was a one off incident, sadly it is all to familiar tale. One doctor at an assessment told me that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome didn’t exist, and I should just take some Ginseng. The repot was a piece of fiction, scoring zero points. At tribunal 6 months later, full points.

  17. For doctors and nurses a patients needs are paramount. I cannot understand doctors and nurses working for atos have they no principles?As a trained nurse who works in the community I would rather sift shit than work for atos. What is wrong with the old system of your GP being the person to decide if you are fit for work or not. Your GP knows usually knows you well both you and your family for years. has probably visited you at home and knows how you can manage on a day to day basis

    • Well said but unfortunately what you’re saying is that rare thing that used to be known as common sense; doesn’t detract from you being spot on though x

    • I watched the Dispatches programme again and made a few notes about some of the things the “Trainer” was saying:

      “My speciality is not recognised in this country so there is a bit of a problem that I don’t have much choice so I decided to love Atos and marry Atos for some time, a long time now.”

      I wonder what her “speciality” is and just how many more doctors who trained & worked outside of the UK have a “speciality” that precludes them from working for anyone other than Atos.

      “This is a very specific job in my opinion, it’s frustrating, it’s toxic that’s why I don’t do overtime it’s specific, you like it or hate it you get crisis every so often, at least I do.”

      I can’t see how any medical professional, unless they’re sadists, can feel comfortable in a job that blatantly ignores basic health, especially mental health, problems in a way that causes such stress & anxiety to those they are assessing. Then again the trainer made it quite clear to those she was training that:

      “We shall remember this new benefit, Employment Support Allowance, was meant to take people off the benefit.”

      An example of this was when they were discussing manual dexterity:

      “If they have one problem, one frozen shoulder, one impingement syndrome, one broken elbow, one hand problem, no limb, amputation they may score a little but the problem has to be bilateral – so it’s almost unachievable.”

      There was then a discussion about the one arm, two arm scenario and asks what would happen if the claimant only had a problem with their dominant arm?

      “Doesn’t matter anymore, can you imagine? So very, very tough benefit, very tough benefit.”

      At a later point the trainer even said “I know it’s utopia in general as long as you’ve got one finger and you can press a button, you don’t score anything for manual dexterity”

      There you go that’s how the assessment is designed and that’s why “it’s almost unachievable.”

      The Atos trainer passes the buck about decisions to the Decision Makers yet she fails to mention that 94% of the conclusions reached by the HCPs in their reports ie comments that the claimant is fit to return to work in x months are rubber stamped by the non-medically trained DMs.

      “I will emphasise that we are only giving advice but the final decision belongs to the Decision Maker and I will always emphasise that you will say that to the clients just to push, kind of, the guilt from yourself that’s how I say because really they wait for our advice but, officially, according to the procedure guidelines final decision is made by the Decision Makers.”

      I think that the fact that the Trainr tries to assuage of any guilt the HCPs may feel by telling them that it’s a:

      “Good thing for us is that even if you make the wrong decision because you have no evidence, you don’t see x-rays, you don’t see ECG you just only see the person so you can be wrong but you never go to the tribunal, this is the good thing, you never go to the tribunal so, sort of, you won’t be blamed.”

      Maybe that’s the problem, the HCPs aren’t held to account for what they’ve written in their reports and they know that they won’t have to defend their findings at a Tribunal. So while there may have momentary guilt they’ve nothing to worry about in the longer term that would focus their mind on the consequences to those they’ve assessed.

      Perhaps that needs to change and HCPs should be compelled to attend any tribunals for the claimants they have assessed. If that did become a condition of service I wonder how many applicants Atos would get for Assessor vacancies & how many existing HCPs would quit.

      • If you missed it take a look at 12/09/2012 ” The One Show”. at 7pm on BBC 1.Interesting article on Atos Healthcare.It also had the chap on who fronted the Paralympics with Clare Balding.He was talking about Atos,DWP,Atheletes,DLA, jobs,etc..

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