The disturbing truth about disability assessmentsBMJ 2012; 345 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e5347 (Published 08 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5347
- Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
Atos Healthcare carries out disability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. When I tried I failed to find out about the content of assessments, their evidence base, and the training and auditing of assessors.1 2 I wanted to know basic things. What medical criteria were used in assessments? How could the assessor—having no access to medical notes, test results, clinical opinions, or history—make a valid decision about whether the person was fit, or not, to work? Despite Atos’s services costing the taxpayer £100m (€125m; $155m) a year, commercial confidentiality is given as the reason why the veils are persistently and firmly drawn.
The general practitioner Steve Bick thwarted this tangled web by going undercover as a new recruit, filming his training sessions for Dispatches. It made for painful viewing. Incapacity benefit is being converted to employment support allowance, with the intention that every claimant would have a medical reassessment—the “work capability assessment.” This is a medical examination carried out by a nurse, physiotherapist, …