Is healthcare provider just passing the buck?
SO GENERAL manager John Mackintosh feels that some media coverage has inaccurately represented Atos Healthcare's role in benefit provision.
I feel its role has been accurately reported and thank God it has, the public needs to be aware of what's going on so keep the truth coming Austin and The Grimsby Telegraph.
The article goes on to say that the Atos role is one of being confined to conducting assessments within strict guidelines set by the Department For Work And Pensions so they can make a decision on a person's need for support. Support to do what because there are very little work opportunities out there for anyone?
This appears to me that maybe Atos Healthcare appears to either be passing the buck or it's a very clever way of crunching numbers to fit what the Government wants to see?
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Furthermore, John Mackintosh states that it is not the Atos role to diagnose, its role is to purely assess capabilities. I agree that it is not Atos's role to diagnose, it's the person's GP/consultant's role to diagnose, what an insult to the integrity/skill of our GPs and consultants. Many GPs and consultants have known their patients for years so will have some in-depth knowledge/awareness about their patients' background and capabilities.
If it is not the Atos role to diagnose, why does its capability assessment not take into account the GPs/ consultant assessment/opinion regarding the person's capabilities, after all it's the GPs/consultants who will be treating the people who have become ill or died as a result of having one of these assessments?
What if someone's capabilities are good on one day but not good on another day due to that person having a variable physical/mental disability?
People are not robots, not everyone fits in the tick-box questions, what about the additional stress these assessments are placing on people who are already living with enduring physical/mental disabilities?
John Mackintosh states that, yes, Atos does make mistakes and in some cases this does have very real effects. Is one of the effects then that some people have died after having a Work Capability Assessment? That's certainly real enough.
I think its brilliant that Austin Mitchell has spoken up about the failings of these assessments, more people need to be standing up for what they feel to be morally true right and just in this society, we need to be taking care of the less fortunate, instead of making things worse for them.
Chris Fletcher, Cleethorpes.
IN RESPONSE to the Viewpoint letter from Atos manager John Mackintosh, I will start by showing the headlines of the Independent paper earlier this month: Atos told incontinent woman to "wear nappy": Firm condemned by MPs for pressuring sick and disabled into returning to work .
Further comments in the article were: "Thousands of sick or disabled people have died after undergoing assessments to find out whether they were fit to work, the House Of Commons was told today.
"Former Labour minister Michael Meacher opened the debate saying that 1,300 people had died after being placed in the 'work-related activity group', for those currently too ill to be employed but expected to start preparing for an eventual return to work.
"A further 2,200 died before the assessment process was completed and 7,100 died after being judged to be entitled to unconditional support because they are too ill or disabled to work."
If you go on the internet, you will be able to find out all about Atos and the government programme of getting people off incapacity, or as they now call it, Employment and Support Allowance .
For instance, large numbers of people found ineligible for the benefit are appealing against the decision to find them fit for work; about 41 per cent of those refused support go to tribunal and 30 per cent are subsequently granted the benefit. There have been more than 600,000 appeals since the WCA started, costing about £60 million a year.
Another newspaper article reads: "A nurse who used to work for government contractor Atos has apologised after describing how she was forced to "trick sick people out of their benefits".
Mr Mackintosh admits in his letter that Atos does not get it right every time, what he fails to say is how many times it gets it wrong, I have a friend who has been on the receiving end of the system and Atos.
My friend went for assessment, it stated that the examination took 19 minutes, how can you do an assessment of a person in such a short time, but more importantly the person being assessed claims the time was less than 15 minutes.
Anyway, my friend failed the interview, needless to say with no points, but they did appeal after being prompted by myself and others.
The benefits were stopped until the appeal, which took several months to be heard because of the backlog. My friend attended the tribunal and was interviewed by the judge and a doctor, this took longer than the Atos interview, and they won the appeal. Strange that Atos gave no points.
The benefit was backdated, but it was a struggle for them between payment stopping and restarting and this happens to all that fail as far as I am aware.
The story does not end at that, my friend was put on the employment and support allowance, which is for 12 months after winning the appeal, they are then supposed to be contacted by the job centre to attend interviews to help them back into work. So far this has not happened.
They have appealed again about being put on employment and support allowance as opposed to support allowance, once again they have a waiting time of several months it seems and if the DWP turns it down, it goes to a tribunal which can be months as well, so you could end up waiting nearly a year without anything.
It seems strange that you can win an appeal that says you are unfit for work, but be asked to attend an interview to help you back to work. I am all for getting people into work I might add, but at what cost?
Not at the cost of what I think is bullying someone who is ill and making them worse.
People who have worked most of their lives and become ill or have a medical problem that makes it impossible to work should not be treated in this way. It is the ones who have never worked who have lived off the system that need to be tackled, those who are irresponsible.
A welfare believer, details supplied.
HOW pitiful it was to read John Macintosh's letter regarding Atos assessments (January 29).
I really would like to question how anyone can absolve his company of anything negative with regards to work capability processes by stating that the company works to guidelines set by DWP, therefore seemingly pleading that Atos has barely any blame on the impact this is having on disabled peoples' lives because they are just operating to these guidelines.
Surely Atos must have some say in the running of these guidelines or are they just sheep being led? Then again they probably dare not question what they do.
After all the input given by thousands of people who have been assessed the company must be aware of the inadequacies of the assessment, as must DWP, and it's about time they reviewed their so-called positive feedback of the "90 per cent" mentioned.
Even if it is true the 10 per cent left amounts to an appalling number of people who have been devastated by the assessments and resulting loss of benefits.
The DWP should be questioned every step of the way to ensure a justifiable assessment process and argue the case that a tick-box assessment is of no use without taking proper feedback by people, doctors, etc, at the time of assessment and this feedback should be a main part of the decision making on whether a person is given appropriate benefits.
I have been assessed and despite having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure, diabetes and neuropathy in my legs and feet, I'm currently on the second phase of an appeal (which has taken months and still waiting) and am in a living hell of despair and desperation, in constant pain and an ever growing worry for my future.
Please do not pass the buck onto the DWP, Mr Macintosh, after all Atos is the first port of call for people having the assessment and your company has a responsibility to provide DWP with feedback
But I won't hold my breath!
Steve Flello, Lancing Way, Scartho.