Control of Atos Healthcare, a contractor to DWP

The request was partially successful.

John Moore

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Please can you answer the following areas of concern:

1. What reason, if any, would Atos Healthcare ('AH') have to
attempt to attempt to deny any Employment Support Allowance ('ESA')
claimant the right to take notes during a Work Capability
Assessment ('WCA')? This, particularly with reference to when the
claimant attends alone and unrepresented. Is there any reason why a
claimant should not take notes but a representative should do so?
Is it an infringement of the Human Rights Act if AH attempt to
prevent note-taking by a claimant?

2. Does AH have any authority from government for such a practice?

3. Have AH any verbal or written policy concerning such practice,
and if so, where can a web or e-mail record of this policy be
accessed?

4. Under what circumstances would AH be allowed to with-hold the
reimbursement of travel expenses to an ESA claimant following
attendance at a WCA for a period of 10 or more weeks? How long on
average is AH's WCA-to-payment timescale? How many complaints have
been recorded about this? What checks and balances are in place to
ensure that AH are not earning interest on such retained funds?

5. What pre-checks are made of the claim form ESA50 by AH with a
view to prevent a wasted journey by the claimant because AH have
not arranged for a suitably qualified healthcare professional to be
allocated to conduct the appointed assessment?

6. In circumstances where AH abort a WCA due to what AH call a
Nurse-to-Doctor-Handover, to what timescale if any must AH
re-appoint the WCA? Are AH acting properly if they abort a WCA due
to a claimant wishing to take notes?

7. Have AH any right to take more than their claimed allowance of
20 working days to respond to a complaint? Where a sick person
requests escalation of a complaint to a named company director of
AH have AH any right to pass the complaint to 3 or more Customer
Service Team Leaders instead?

8. What penalties are provided for situations where AH staff
falsely notify DWP that a claimant has failed to attend a WCA when
the claimant has in fact attended?

9. Is it correct for DWP to decline to respond to a claimant's
complaint about the conduct or performance of AH?

10. Is the DWP e-mail address [email address] working as at
20/05/10? Under what circumstances might it be acceptable for a
number of e-mail messages sent to that address over a period of
some 2 months to be ignored?

11. Is it true that AH are allowed to select the body chosen by DWP
to act as the Independent Tier for compalints against AH?

12. Are any assessments made on a clerical basis, in other words
without attendance at a WCA being deemed necessary?

13. What checks are in place to ensure that an assessor is at least
as well qualified as the General Practitioner who deems the sick
person incapable of work?

14. How many complaints have been made regarding:
(a) Non-reimbursement or slow reimbursement of travel expenses
(over 1 week after the WCA)?
(b) Improper conduct of a WCA?
(c) Delay of more than one week reappointing a WCA?
(d) Failure to respond to a complaint after 20 working days?
(e) Refusal to act upon repeated requests for escalation of a
complaint?
(f) Falsely informing DWP of non-attendance at a WCA?

15. Under what circumstances would AH's £500 million, 7-year
contract be revoked on the grounds of inefficiency and awarded to a
different supplier?

16. How does DWP respond to the findings of Citizens' Advice Scotland that ESA is "unfit for purpose"?

17. To what extent is DWP aware of the huge groundswell of anger felt by many of this country's ESA claimants about the conduct of Atos?

18. Can DWP comment on the appalling treatment at the hands of Atos of a terminally ill brain cancer patient, as reported at http://www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatos.html

Thank you

Yours faithfully,

John Moore

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

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MikeBach left an annotation ()

Thank you for mentioning my case as documented in http://www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatos.html. The more cases published in full the better. I have been told of appalling cases of military veterans, of those with bipolar, of those with fibromyalgia and worse carers who have experienced their loved ones who have died denied allowances. I am too tired to write up their cases as every week I get weaker.

I do recommend Vallium. You may still collapse like a stone and your arm and leg thrashes back and forward but the pain is no longer so bad that I have stopped yelling at people to cut my throat and end my extreme pain. I am lucky I have survived passed the 9 months which is the average survival time for someone withe my condition. I sleep much longer than before. I am pleased as I believe the end game is that I will fall asleep for longer and longer periods and then pass away (hopefully without too much pain).

There are so many too ill to fight for ESA. The Government claim this means they are not entitled. This may be true for some but not for most. I have asked for the medical conditions of those denied ESA. I have not being given this information. I think the NAO should audit the DWP and Atos and provide independent figures.

Thank you again for fighting on behalf of the dying, the sick, the disabled and their carers. You are a hero.

Highest Regards

Mike Bach

John Moore left an annotation ()

Keep your spirits up mike, John can you itemise section 4 as you have section 14,
just an observation...
great work though
thanks for e mail join i have signed the appeal form
pat neary

John Moore left an annotation ()

Don't wish to further annotate as it might jeopardise the FOI by complicating it. Already had it fobbed-off by Cabinet Office, but I agree that it would have been better fully annotated.

Have had partial response - a copy of the current DWP/Atos Healthcare contract

John Moore left an annotation ()

I would like to place on record that Atos Healthcare have consistantly given out incorrect information regarding my case. I am currently awaiting the result of a WCA to replace the one which was aborted by Atos Healthcare two months earlier so at this stage I am limited in what I can say.

John Moore

Dear DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request,

Although you have sent me a copy of the current ESA Assessment Handbook, that is only a tiny part of my FOI request and I feel that there were plenty of 'quick wins' in there which you should have addressed by now.

Apart from being over your time limit on the request, I believe that much of the information I requested should be readily available. In view of this, please may I have answers by return, to more of the questions I submitted?

Yours sincerely,

John Moore

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

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been received at the DWP Central FoI Team.

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Department who will respond to you direct.

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John Moore

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Work and Pensions's handling of my FOI request 'Control of Atos Healthcare, a contractor to DWP'.

[The FOI request is beyond deadline and I have only been given an answer to one item. Other items I have requested should be easily answered]

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/co...

Yours faithfully,

John Moore

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

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been received at the DWP Central FoI Team.

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Department who will respond to you direct.

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DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Moore

Please see attached response to your FoI request

Kind regards

Central FoI Team

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John Moore

Dear DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request,

Thank you for your interim acknowledgement but you have not set any milepost or target date by which you propose to actually give me the answers to my questions, even though you refer to having some answers in draft form. By what date will you deliver answers to the rest of my questions, please?

I would point out that I should have become eligible for an enhanced rate of ESA sickness benefit 19 weeks ago and as a result I am having to tell creditors of priority debts that I cannot pay them because of the timewasting and stalling behaviour of Atos Healthcare! One reason for my FOI request was to highlight system failure but the delays in this FOI itself are not helping at all. DWP has expressed no ownership of the problem even though they are nominally in charge of the ESA benefit.

Yours sincerely,

John Moore

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received at the DWP Central FoI Team.

We will forward your request to the relevant information owner within the
Department who will respond to you direct.

Should you also have any further queries in connection with this request
do please contact us.

For further information on the Freedom of Information Act within DWP
please click on the link below.

[1]http://www.dwp.gov.uk/freedom-of-informa...

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References

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1. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/freedom-of-informa...

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Moore

Please see attached response to your FoI request.

Kind regards

Central FoI Team

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Franch McGettigan left an annotation ()

Thanks for John Moore for persisting with this request.

Unfortunately, ATOS has gotten even worse!

ATOS Healthcare is now ordering claimants (and their companions) to surrender any notes they have taken during the interview.

That was exactly my own experience at the ATOS Medical Assessment Centre in Hereford earlier this week.

Before the assessment even began, both I and my companion were warned that we had to first agree first to hand over our notes to ATOS at the end of the assessment. We were told that the notes would be photocopied and stored on an ATOS database.

I was told that the penalty for refusing to agree to this condition was the immediate termination of the assessment.

There was an implicit warning that my file would be returned to the DWP with a note stating that the assessment had been terminated because of "claimant non-compliance".

This latest rule from ATOS surely cannot be lawful. To the best of my knowledge, ATOS has no legal right, nor authority from the DWP, to insist on the surrender of private notes taken during a medical assessment.

Those notes could form evidence in a Tribunal. To order the surrender of the claimant's notes is to procedurally disadvantage him, and potentially prejudice his case at Tribunal.

As such, to impose a condition that demands the surrender of the claimant's private notes must be a breach of fundamental human rights law.

Specifically Article 6 of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. And, in particular, the right to Equality of Arms - and the requirement that the citizen should not be placed at a procedural disadvantage.

If there is a human rights lawyer with specialism in social security law who should like to take on my case, please contact me.

The region concerned is the ATOS Birmingham office. In my case, the ATOS Medical Manager overseeing the policy of ordering claimants to surrender their private notes is a Dr Jacques SAAYMAN.

More specific information about my own case (and apologies for piggy-backing here) can be found at:

http://dwpexamination.org/forum/horror-s...

Thank you for your time.

John Moore left an annotation ()

Atos are not allowed in the dwp/atos contract to prevent patients from taking notes. They must also allow any 'next friend' with the patient to take notes and they prefer this, claiming better eye contact with the patient as the reason. Neither is Atos allowed to:
1. Threaten termination of the assessment regarding note-taking.,
2. Take a photocopy of patient-side notes.,
3. Impound patient-side notes.
However experiences such as yours are depressingly familiar and it is even more depressing to see the seeming lack of interest by DWP in ensuring fairness to patients by supervising (and if necessary sanctioning) the contract it has with it's contractor Atos when that company behaves badly to vulnerable patients.

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