The Stream – a programme on Al Jazeera English – are covering the protests against Atos in their show this evening at 19:30 GMT. They asked me what I thought should be included.
These are the key points that I think are the problem.
- That Atos staff and Lima system do not adequately assess whether patients fit the descriptors as set by government, instead asking their own questions to fit their tick boxes then trying to make the answers fit the legislation set out by government. (Found at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2011/228/made)
- That Atos as a private contractor is not accountable in the same was as gov, e.g. FOI requests
- That the whole concept of assessing patients as fit for work or not is flawed, this cannot be tested in a 45 minute session as Atos does not draw on medical history, variation from day to day, etc.
- Atos judge a person’s ability to walk, stand, concentrate, communicate etc on what they look like in one 45 minute session which can be very different from other times.
- In making the decision Atos ignore impact of work on state of health and they don’t account for the health impact of doing many things in sequence to work, just ability to do any one of those things in isolation!
- Asking trick questions to catch people out.
- Having “Medical Centres” that are not fully accessible, including centres with no lifts, no disabled car parking bays, or sometimes no parking at all, and unsuitable chairs in their waiting rooms.
- Frequently keeping patients waiting hours for their appointment, and observing them in the waiting room for behaviour that might mark them as liars.
- Having assessments carried out by staff other than fully qualified doctors.
I would particularly like to know why Atos do not ask the questions as set out by legislation, instead asking their own random questions, including trick questions to catch people out. For example, “Do you watch Eastenders?” if answered with yes is taken as proof of ability to set in one place for an hour, and to concentrate fully. “Do you have any pets?” is used to determine that the patient is capable of feeding, cleaning and caring for the pet and therefore themselves. “How did you get here?” is another trick, since it can be taken as proof of being fully able to use public transport, when in fact the journey might have caused considerable deterioration in health for the patient but was undertaken out of fear of losing benefits.
This list is just what I can think of in a few minutes, I am sure there are other problems too.