Do you think ATOS is fit for purpose?
Yes
5.6% (1)
5.6% (1)
No
88.9% (16)
88.9% (16)
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Poll: ATOS healthcare and you!

By "Fit for purpose" I mean "Accurately testing the ability for disabled people to work or not."

Atos Healthcare is proud to lead improvements in the way care is delivered, giving control to patients and helping them choose how to manage their health.

We utilise our expertise in consulting, technology and healthcare, to continually drive innovation through one integrated, world-class offering.

From the ATOS healthcare homepage. Here is a link for people who want to read their PR bullshit.

http://www.atoshealthcare.com/

For those of you that do not know, ATOS are behind the new means tested disability benefit. Across the country horror stories are starting to come out. People with severe learning difficulties and a mental age of three being declared fit for work, people facing appeal after appeal and being driven into early graves. This thread was inspired by a friend of mine going through one of those horror stories.

To keep things simple, lets call her M. On Monday, M's father was found fit for work by ATOS healthcare. He had been sick for many years following breaking his back in the Armed Forces. At the time, he could barely walk and was in and out of hospital on a monthly basis. M spent most of Wednesday photocopying in excess of 100 pages of doctors notes for use in the appeal against this declaration.

It doesn't matter now. Early on Friday morning, he died of a heart attack. Less then a week after being found fit for work this man, an army veteran, died.

ATOS are killing people. M's father did not die as a direct result, but there have been cases of the excess stress pushing people over the edge.

I... I dunno if there is much discussion value here. Perhaps that will appear in the thread. Here is the Disabled People Against Cuts page.

http://dpac.uk.net/2012/09/atos-doctors-hard-to-believe-but/

Its about time we got rid of these Tories before they do even more damage to this country.

Well this seems awfully reactionary.

I don't think being wheelchair bound means you are not fit to work, what with all the ramps and lifts and anti-discrimination laws in place specifically to allow people with physical disabilities to work. He could totally do a desk job, as you evidence with your story about him photocopying tonnes of stuff.

My step dad has severe gout, bronchitis, and more, but he's still working.

Moreover, people with severe learning difficulties can work. It's often (but not always) beneficial for them to do so, too. The socialisation and routine calm them, and the reward makes them feel like they're growing and progressing, even if it's just menial labour like planting vegetables or stacking shelves. As long as they have understanding employers.

Organisations like this (and people in general) have a hard time dealing with the realities of the mentally disabled or retarded- even the police only started receiving training on how to deal with those sorts of people in the last 10 years or so I believe. Before, they were just treating them like anyone else which isn't usually (but can be) the best way to go about it.

Two pieces of information which really should have been included in the OP to paint a complete picture:

1. There are presumably some legal guidelines the company has to follow: criteria. What are they?

2. What proportion of those declared fit for work are done so incorrectly?

It seems like an independent evaluation of the protocol used to determine someone's ability to work might suffice. If there are gross injustices or general incompetence then either make them change or shut them down but anecdotal evidence just indicates there is a problem somewhere not that it's systemic.

Personally I found ATOS to be fairly accurate, I could not claim money due to a substantial medical negligence payout that puts me well over the savings limit but I wanted my NI contributions etc. The ATOS doctor didn't know that though and his assessment was fair, during the interview he was knowledgeable about my health problems and obviously had read through the records. His report even included some potential issues my doctors had not considered.

Evidently though as a whole I do not think the current system is working, people with health problems and disabilities far worse than mine are being treated incredibly badly. The whole system needs a rethink just from the efficiency standpoint alone, then you have the unfair treatment and harassment of vulnerable people.

I've heard that over 50% of appeals are successful, which is fairly damning. Anecdotally, my Aunt won an appeal, and 3 months later was made to do another check-up after which they again said she was fit for work, so she is now having to appeal that also.

I'll see if I can find sources for my 50% figure.

http://fullfact.org/factchecks/ATOS_ESA_assessments_overturned-3135

Okay, turns out it is more complicated than that. The Over 50% claim is for those taken to court and represented by the Citizens Advice Bureau (turns out I can't spell bureau without using spellchecker, stupid vowels). As a proportion of total cases about 9% are overturned, which are higher odds than I'd like if they where assessing me, but not necessarily that bad.

I think one of the main concerns is that there have been implications that they are working to targets rather than genuinely assessing the level of disability people have.

Danny Ocean:
Well this seems awfully reactionary.

I don't think being wheelchair bound means you are not fit to work, what with all the ramps and lifts and anti-discrimination laws in place specifically to allow people with physical disabilities to work. He could totally do a desk job, as you evidence with your story about him photocopying tonnes of stuff.

Not really. He is dead. Plus it was his daughter (M) who did all the photocopying, as I stated. Perhaps unclearly, but I thought it was pretty clear.

My step dad has severe gout, bronchitis, and more, but he's still working.

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/anecdotal

Good for your father. He is obviously still able to work. M's father was not. I think you somewhat missed the point of all the photocopying that she had to get done. He was a very ill man (As evidenced by his dying), and the 100+ pages of Dr's notes were from over a decade of incredibly poor health.

Moreover, people with severe learning difficulties can work. It's often (but not always) beneficial for them to do so, too. The socialisation and routine calm them, and the reward makes them feel like they're growing and progressing, even if it's just menial labour like planting vegetables or stacking shelves. As long as they have understanding employers.

The case I was looking for I cannot find again. Meh, I am rather tired. In short, a woman (Aged 30) who is wheelchair bound was found fit for work despite having the mental age of a 3 year old. She is unable to talk, read or write. In this case it is very, very clear that she would be unable to do any work. Or, at least, any work that you would not trust a 3 year old in a wheelchair to do.

Organisations like this (and people in general) have a hard time dealing with the realities of the mentally disabled or retarded- even the police only started receiving training on how to deal with those sorts of people in the last 10 years or so I believe. Before, they were just treating them like anyone else which isn't usually (but can be) the best way to go about it.

Two pieces of information which really should have been included in the OP to paint a complete picture:

1. There are presumably some legal guidelines the company has to follow: criteria. What are they?

2. What proportion of those declared fit for work are done so incorrectly?

Well, someone below you grabbed the statistics. One in 10 cases are successfully appealed (Although some of these appeals are then overturned) which indicates at least 10% of cases are unfairly judged. DPAC use the statistic that less then 0.5% of DLA claims are fraudulent. As for the legal guidelines? The government has given them quotas for the amount of people they have to fail.

dmase:
It seems like an independent evaluation of the protocol used to determine someone's ability to work might suffice. If there are gross injustices or general incompetence then either make them change or shut them down but anecdotal evidence just indicates there is a problem somewhere not that it's systemic.

The problem, right now, is that all there is is anecdotal evidence. There was a rather miserable Panorama on the subject, focusing on people who were obviously too ill to work yet being found healthy enough to work. Including a man who had suffered several heart attacks and had less then 40% of his heart tissue still working. The issue here is the government has nothing whatsoever to gain from an independent evaluation of ATOS, the more people ATOS clears for work, the more money the Government saves as a result.

ATOS is, quite simply, incompetent. Might be yet more anecdotal evidence, but this is something directly from the DPAC website I linked.

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.

If true that indicates a level of incompetence that is truly terrifying.

Here is another terrifying statistic.

Many others have had conditions worsened due to the stress of testing regime whilst a recent investigation found that 32 people a week die after being found 'fit for work by the company'.

http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/remembering-those-whove-died-at-the-hands-of-atos-healthcare/

The fact of the matter is that in this case, like in many others, someone died of a pre-existing health issue within a week of being found fit for work. If nothing that shows ATOS is willing to hire morons and simply should not be in charge of evaluating the health of anyone.

It needs to be mentioned that not all the problems are caused by ATOS, for example ATOS do not make any decisions about whether someone gets benefits or not or which group claimants are placed in. The system is flawed before ATOS even get involved. All ATOS are supposed to do is examine any medical evidence and assign the descriptors according to each medical condition and its effects.

Each claimant essentially has to run three gauntlets, they have to go through the flawed assessment process, then face the possibility of an incompetent ATOS doctor and finally their claim is assessed by the DWP who decide whether to payout or not. Worse still some people are unfortunate enough to have to face this process every three months.

Fixing the sickness benefits system needed doing, the old incapacity benefit system was absurd. A person could simply get a sick note from their doctor and get incapacity benefit, housing benefit and any other additional benefits they would be entitled to and not have to work for years. The whole limited capability for work assessment though and the support group/work related activity group system is bad for a whole slew of other reasons.

Both are unfair and cost the state more money than necessary.

America has their own version of this it would seem and that same company has been in talks with UK government in the past.

A California jury's $31.7 million verdict against UnumProvident, the nation's largest disability insurer, is just one of a number of legal problems the company faces. More than 2,500 policyholders have sued the company accusing it of fraud and breach of contract, there is at least one class-action suit pending and regulators in two states are conducting inquiries.

http://www.beasleyallen.com/news/surgeon-wins-31-million-in-unum-provident-lawsuit/

J Tyran:

Fixing the sickness benefits system needed doing, the old incapacity benefit system was absurd. A person could simply get a sick note from their doctor and get incapacity benefit, housing benefit and any other additional benefits they would be entitled to and not have to work for years. The whole limited capability for work assessment though and the support group/work related activity group system is bad for a whole slew of other reasons.

Both are unfair and cost the state more money than necessary.

And yet, the governments own figures show that benefit fraud runs at only 0.7% or so:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/benefit-fraud-bill-is-dropping-but-more-action-is-needed

And in the same year those figures covered, Incapacity Benefit and DLA together cost a total of just over 16.5bn. That's less than the 16.94bn spent on Housing Benefit, around half the claimant of which are in full time employment. In fact, the overwhelming majority of benefits are paid out to either people in employment, or in State Pensions - a whopping 74.2bn the same year.

The real problem with the UK Benefits system is that ever since the 80's, successive governments have allowed the benefits system to be used to prop up their chums in big business who like to pay below-living wage to the workers, and save the real payouts for the few at the top, and the shareholders.

Of course, going after the sick and disabled is easy when you have a relatively tame press who are happy to run a different story every day about someone who was caught cheating the system or whatnot, thus perpetuating the myth that such behaviour is rampant, with the only paper actually willing to cover the horror stories about the effects this disgusting bunch at ATOS are having on real peoples' lives being the Grauniad, which itself suffers the problem of being viewed as a loony-lefty rag.

Want to bring the benefits bill down by far more than you'll ever save by targeting the weak and the sick? Get tough, and enforce a minimum wage that reflects the reality of living costs. Make sure people are paid enough to live, and to save for their futures. We're not talking 6 figure salaries for all, just a decent, living wage. Stop handing out billions upon billions to corrupt banks who got too greedy. Iceland let the banks fall, and they're actually not doing too badly now. Stop giving billions upon billions in foreign aid to countries who can't be that hard up, otherwise they wouldn't be building nuclear weapons and buying expensive military hardware such as 5th generation combat aircraft, carriers, submarines etc (I'm looking at you, India...).

But anyone who thought the Tories would give a fuck about anyone but their millionaire mates was fucking nuts anyway. Sadly, the Labour party are barely any different these days and the Lib Dems are worse than useless. Gladstone, Lloyd George, and Hardie must be spinning in their graves...

(And yes, I know that today's Liberal Democrats are descended from those SDP clowns of the 80's, but they deliberately identify themselves as "Liberal")

Although this is about the system in the UK, it is eeriely similar to the system in the US, and here the system is a terrible mess and failing those who are in need of assistance. Though I am not at liberty to discuss patients, I can discuss how I have dealt with this system with my own father. My father suffered Hemorrhage in the Basal Ganglia with multiple rebleeds, or laymans terms he suffered Multiple strokes caused by hypertension in this part of his brain:
image
that left him unable to speak or understand words, left him with impaired vision, unable to fully use his right hand or leg, and had to also relearn how to swallow.
More information on what this is for those who are not aware:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291314/

It was extremely difficult for my father to receive his disability after he applied. It took over 6 months with no income for him to receive his first check, and 2 years after he applied for disabilty could then apply for medical assistance. Most people would die and become homelss with no income and no medical treatment with his conditions, and would not even live to receive their first check. Luckily the Hopsitals own charity program covered his medical treatment, and I was able to keep them in their home.

3 months after he applied, they sent a letter stating that the information they received from 5 Neurolgists, his Cardiologist, his Rheumatologist and his primary care physician was "incomplete" and they required him to go see their " approved doctor" who was only a "D.O." rather than an MD as all his physicians were. Yes, they actually sent him to a less qualified physician than the ones they received information from. When we arrived, he was trying to make my father do things he could not do, and started to try to force him to lay flat. Due to his spinal conditions, he is unable to do so, and to force him to do so could injure his spine, so I intervened and informed him of what my proffession was, and he changed his manner immediately. I asked to see his file and asked if he had reviewed it, and he said not entirely and brought out the " box" yes, the information they were sent sat a foot tall in height, and was far from being "incomplete", in fact it was too much for them to read and that was the problem. He finally said that he needed to take an additional image and sent us to an imaging center to have that done. the next week when we went to his Neurologist appointment, She asked for the number of the guy handling his case, when informed that they said the information they received was " incomplete", and she called him and gave him an earful. She was a bit more than irritated with that to say the least...

A month later, we received another letter stating he needed a psychiatric evaluation as well and had a date and time set for him to go in. When we arrived there, the Physician told us from the beginning, "I don't even know why they are sending you to me, it is obvious you qualify for disability." Just from what he examined from seeing us come from the car and in the waiting room. He still attempted to do his evaulation, although he said he could not really do it because when a man cannot speak properly or understand words properly he obviously is not going to be able to answer the questions.

So then more time goes by ... finally we receive a letter stating that he was approved for disability but due to his condition, he was not able to handle his own finances, and that his disability could go towards paying only HALF of his household expenses.. YES, you heard that right, they were trying to say his money could not be used to pay his bills. So we drove an hour and a half to the social security office to get this straightened out. Luckily the woman we spoke to there was quite easy to deal with and helped us out. She overrode the system and allowed his bills to be paid, so that he would not have his water and electricity shut off. it took a total of 6 months and 3 weeks for him to finally receive his first check, and has not yet started to receive his medicare.

I know this is about the system in the UK, but if it turns out to be anything like the system in the US, you should know this is what you have to look forward to. They add these hurdles, not to ensure that the people who need this get assistance, they add these things to increase the amount of time it takes for them to be approved, where they could die before having to pay them, reducing the numbers of people who they have to pay at all. It is Sick, and should never be found acceptable.

srm79:

J Tyran:
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You're preaching to the choir here, taking part of my post and trying to construct an argument against it. I believe in Britains welfare system and the NHS, the whole "new Jerusalem" thing in the original Labour party vision. I believe in helping the people that end up in trouble, the ones that get sick and the people that lose jobs and when the system fails them.

This means being pragmatic though, there is only so much money to go around and trying to avoid fixing one unfairness by creating another. People fortunate or skilled enough to make lots of money should not be overly penalized, nor should they be allowed to dodge fair due either. Someone out of work should get help to take care of themselves, feed their families and have a basic quality of life. Neither should they get more in welfare income than a hardworking similar sized family can earn. People that are sick should get all the help they need to live a decent quality of life, even if that means relatively expensive disability aids. Those that could be rehabilitated or retrained and be able to safely work again should also get the help they deserve but they should also make whatever efforts they can (however small) to support themselves a bit.

The Work Capability Assessment is obviously broken but that doesn't mean the concept is broken, the state has an obligation to ensure everyone claiming money has a right too do so. They owe this both to the tax payer and the other people genuinely in need of welfare money, there is only so much to go around and any waste or fraudulent claims is a terrible thing. One sick note allowing people to claim hundreds of pounds a week forever, even decades was out of order and needed fixing.

 

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