Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA
16 May 2013
Dear Prime Minister
I have been contacted by a doctor who, until very recently, worked for Atos Healthcare carrying out work capability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
As you will be aware concern has been expressed, including by the National Audit Office, about the performance of Atos Healthcare and the management of the work capability assessment process by the DWP. Recent figures show that 42% of those who appeal the original decision by the DWP, which is largely based on the original Atos assessment, are successful.
Government figures suggest that the cost of running the appeal system in 2012/13 will reach £70m. This means that taxpayers are effectively paying for this process twice – first through the £112m contract with Atos, and again for the appeal system to correct those mistakes.
Doctor Greg Wood, who served as a medical officer in the Royal Navy for 16 years, has made the following allegations:
- “claimants are often not being assessed in an even handed way”
- “In my experience HCPs are not free to make independent recommendations, important evidence is frequently missing or never sought in the first place, medical knowledge is twisted and points are often wrongly withheld through the use of an erroneously high standard of proof”
- If Atos assessors “show deviation from the official line the HCP is instructed to change the report”
- “In about a quarter of assessments important documentary evidence is missing but the assessments go ahead regardless.”;
-Training of new HCPs creates an environment where HCPS “expect that they will see in the course of their work score too few points to qualify for ESA. This is often the de facto starting hypothesis, with the effect that the claimant usually faces an uphill struggle before the assessment has even begun.”
- HCPs often “begrudgingly” score claimants
- There is an attitude drilled into HCPs “which leans towards finding reasons not to award points”
- “I believe that this overall bias in many cases affects the outcome of the claim when the claimant’s disability lies broadly in the middle of the disability spectrum.”
These are very serious allegations which merit urgent investigation. I am writing to urge you to personally order such an investigation and monitor its outcome.
Those going through the system, and the taxpayers who are funding it, need to have confidence that it is fair and cost-effective. The allegations made by the doctor suggest that this is far from the case at present.
I should be grateful for your confirmation that you will ensure these allegations are investigated as a matter of urgency.
Tom Greatrex MP
Rutherglen and Hamilton West