ATOS, the private company notorious for its treatment of sick and disabled people claiming Employment Support Allowance, is outsourcing one of its contracts for assessing entitlement to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs), the benefit replacing Disability Living Allowance. Lanarkshire NHS will receive £22 million of the £400 million ATOS is being paid for PIPs testing.
As a civil servant in the Department for Work and Pensions and then a ESA claimant, I've seen the way ATOS treats sick and disabled people. The so-called medical assessments consist of ticking boxes on a computer screen and are carried out by doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who have no knowledge of the medical conditions and complex mental health issues of the people they see - deliberately so because their function (as ATOS and DWP admit) is to find as many people as possible fit for work.
Channel 4's Dispatches programme recently sent a doctor undercover in ATOS. He immediately came under pressure to find people he knew were sick fit for work, leading to stress and anxiety and in some case premature death for those subjected to the ESA testing regime. The professional bodies which cover doctors, nurses and physiotherapists should look at how their ethical codes requiring members to act in the best interests of patients square with achieving the targets set for ATOS by DWP for throwing sick and disabled people off benefits.