A doctor who worked for the private company which assesses people for disability benefits says its methods are “unfair”. Greg Wood, a former Royal Navy doctor, resigned from Atos earlier this month, after working as an assessor for two-and-a-half years. He told the BBC the system was “skewed against the claimant”.
But Atos Healthcare says it submits “clinically justified reports” and completely refutes Dr Wood’s claims. Atos, which has been criticised in the past by disability campaigners and MPs, carries out work capability assessments (WCAs) on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Claimants have to score a required number of points in order to qualify for the full sickness benefit under the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
In a statement, Atos said: “We never ask healthcare professionals to make any changes to a report unless there are specific clinical quality issues identified within it. We do not deviate from government guidelines in our training. We do not have targets for getting people on or off benefits. We have a large team of fully trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who provide a professional and compassionate service through what we recognise can be a difficult and emotional process for people.”
In an interview with the BBC, Dr Wood says he believes Atos assessors are not free to make truly independent recommendations. He said he felt compelled to speak out because it was “embarrassing to be associated with this shambles”. It’s very unfair on the people making claims, they deserve a fair assessment and as a taxpayer I’m pretty cheesed off about the £100m plus that’s being sprayed away on this dog’s breakfast,” he said.
The assessments – or fit to work tests – sparked protests from disability campaigners after their introduction in 2010.
Source: BBC NEWS
16th May 2013