THE BLOG

ATOS Shame for 'Complicit and Negligence' British Medical Association

24/03/2014 11:25 GMT | Updated 21/05/2014 10:59 BST

The Government's welfare reforms have been criticised from all across the political divide and if there is one name that encapsulates the ethos behind the Tory's reform is 'ATOS'.

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Atos carries out the Tory Government's 'Work Capability Assessments'. These medical 'assessments' decide if a sick and disabled person is 'fit for work' or eligible for sickness benefit.

These assessments are so inadequate that 90% of those who have been found 'fit for work' has had this decision overturned when they have appealed with the help of an advocate.

In 2011 alone, official stats reveal that 10,600 people have died after being found fit to work by Atos and another 2,200 had died before their assessment was complete. The Government has since refused to publish stats for 2012/13

Atos reputation is now in ruin. The company is completely discredited. So much so that they have rebranded under the name of "OH Assist". This reminds me of a phrase my mother used to say: "you can polish a turd but it will always be a turd".


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Atos is now attempting to run away with their tail between their legs from the chaos they helped create after confirming in February that it is seeking to end it's government contract to assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work. They may run, they may rebrand but their shame will follow them forever.

Perversely, they are the assessors for PIP under OHAssist name: Terminally ill people are now going for six months or more without the benefit they are entitled to owing to 'delays'.

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Atos make be looking for a way out but the Work Capability Assessment is still here. The Black Triangle campaign believes that there is a solution.

Doctors backed a motion at the annual BMA conference in 2012 that had been submitted by Black Triangle's Medical Advisor stating that Atos's assessments were "inadequate" and "have little regard to the nature or complexity of the needs of long-term sick and disabled persons".

They called for the tests to be replaced with a more "rigorous and safe system" to prevent harming "some of the weakest and most vulnerable in society".

This was a massive victory for the Black Triangle campaign and other disabled activists but they have been sorely let down by the inaction of the leadership of the BMA.

One of the roles of the GMC is to set standards of professional and ethical conduct that all doctors in the UK are required to follow. The main guidance that the GMC provides for doctors is called Good Medical Practice.

The 'Good Medical Practice' states that: '... a doctor must (overriding duty or principle) take prompt action if he feels that "patient safety is or may be seriously compromised by inadequate... policies or systems.'

This means, in layman's terms, that GPs have a duty to speak out against political policies and systems. As WCA seriously compromises patient safety, doctors now have a duty to duty to act where there are policies and systems such as the WCA which seriously compromises patient safety.

And there is a way for them to speak out AND exempt their patients from Atos Assessments.

Within ESA regulation, there is a mechanism which allows GPs to have their patients exempt from WCA. Dr Stephen Carty, the Black Triangle campaign's medical Adviser, has helped over thirty patients to gain exemption by stating these regulations.

This mechanism is within ESA regulations 29 and 35 and can kick-in if the GP believes that their patient should not be found fit for work (regulation 29), or placed in the work-related activity group (regulation 35) as such a decision would pose "a substantial risk" to their "mental or physical health".

The Black Triangle Campaign has one simple demand. It isn't the world that they are asking for. All they want is for the BMA to issue an advisory to their members informing them of the existence of the ESA Regulations enabling GPs to flag up substantial risk of harm at the very outset of the Work Capability Assessment procedure.

They believe that tragedies such as that of Mark Wood, a psychiatric patient who fell through the net and starved himself to death in Oxford, could have been avoided. Mark's tragic death is just the latest in a long list of suicides where the Coroner has found the removal of benefits following an erroneous decision by the DWP to have been the major leading directly to the death of the victim.


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Black Triangle campaigner, John McArdle, speaks of the good work of local doctors do at local level but also speaks of the complete 'stonewalling' from the 'duplicitous' leadership of the BMA. He believes that the BMA are 'complicit and negligence' by 'resisting' this move, which would protect thousands of sick and disabled people in the UK from the clutches of Atos.

It is completely unacceptable that the leadership of the BMA, the trade union for doctors, have not taken a stand on this issue. Many other doctors and other trade unions have unsuccessfully pleaded with the BMA to take action. Even 121 MPs signed an early day motion demanding action.

Our society puts their profession on a pedestal to moral authority. Standing by and allowing patients health to be damaged risks fracturing the public's high regard for Doctors. They must take action, they can not allows themselves to be tools of an inhumane and outright nasty Government.