Views & Reviews Personal View

I blew the whistle on the government’s disability assessments

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5009 (Published 20 August 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5009
  1. Greg Wood, former naval doctor and Atos disability analyst, London
  1. dr.greg.wood.wca{at}gmail.com

Greg Wood went to the media with concerns about the ethics surrounding tests for fitness to work—and eligibility for benefits—that the UK government outsourced to Atos

Actually, two whistleblowers went public before me, and several other doctors have raised concerns anonymously. I am a former general practitioner in the Royal Navy, where work related assessments are bread and butter stuff. The UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) devised the work capability assessment (WCA) to judge whether people who receive out of work sickness benefits could, in fact, cope with most forms of work. A more stringent test came into use in 2011, and the government made no secret of the fact that it hoped this would boost the labour market, improve people’s self esteem and personal income, and, of course, reduce government debt.

For many years the information technology and “business process outsourcing” company Atos has had a contract, now worth £100m (€116m; $155.4m) a year, to carry out several social security benefit assessments, including the WCA, for the Department for Work and Pensions. In my view this risks tension between doctors’ professional concerns on the one hand and business imperatives on the other.

The WCA had a troubled childhood. From early on, claimants and disability …

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