Atos and changes to disabled people’s benefitsBMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e1114 (Published 14 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1114
All rapid responses
I write to address several points raised in a recent article (Atos and changes to disabled people’s benefit (BMJ 2012;344:e1114) and your editorial column (Through Historians’ eyes (BMJ 2012;344:e1112).
Firstly, Professor Malcolm Harrington has examined the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) in two extensive reviews. All recommendations made to Atos Healthcare in the first review have been implemented. We are now working with the DWP to implement those made in the second review.
Secondly, in his second review, Professor Harrington examined LiMA, the computer software used by Healthcare Professionals to construct assessment reports. He concluded that: “there does not appear to be any fundamental problems with the way in which the software operates” and noted that “many of the comments received ... appear not to be robust or evidence based.” As is now widespread in most healthcare settings, LiMA simply replaces paper as a recording tool.
Thirdly, Atos Healthcare and DWP encourage people to submit additional medical evidence at any stage of the process for consideration as part of the claim. Our Healthcare Professionals ask for additional medical information from the claimant’s GP or other medical specialist when an individual’s completed questionnaire suggests that they may have a high level of functional loss, and as such may not require a face-to-face assessment. Unfortunately, these requests are not always answered.
Finally, for chronic and fluctuating conditions, we use the same techniques as other clinicians to assess variability of symptoms, and a detailed functional history ensures the effects of variability on an individual’s abilities are addressed.
All our 1,400 doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, are registered with their relevant professional body and are individually approved by the DWP. Atos Healthcare is also a GMC Approved Practice Setting. We want those who are called for a face to face assessment to understand that they will be well treated and properly assessed and by highly professional and dedicated practitioners.
Professor Michael O’Donnell
Chief Medical Officer, Atos Healthcare
Competing interests: I am the Chief Medical Officer of Atos Healthcare