NEWS
15/02/2019 00:01 GMT

Fury As Nurses Offered Private Healthcare Perk To Become DWP Benefits Assessors

Labour's Tom Watson described the job listing as "grotesque".

Reuters
Atos, the services firm, has targeted NHS staff in benefit assessment job ads.

A major government contractor which conducts disability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions is trying to recruit NHS nurses and offering perks including private medical care and company cars.

Independent Assessment Services, owned by French services giant Atos, highlighted the benefits in a jobs listing for the role of a mobile Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessor, which was aimed at health service workers.

Among the perks for the south of England job were “private medical insurance” and a “premium, low-emission company car”.

“No nights, weekends or bank holidays,” it read.

One ad, posted last month to a jobs website, said Atos hoped to employ nurses, physiotherapists and paramedics to carry out PIP assessments, which determine whether a claimant needs extra help.

“Our client is a leading provider of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) health assessment and reporting services on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP),” the advert, written by recruitment firm SBJ Medical, said.

The advert said the role requires successful candidates to “complete medical assessments for a broad range of medical conditions”, often in claimant’s homes.

Salaries range from £34,240 in Brighton to £43,870 in the south-east, according to several of similar adverts posted on job sites. 

In the NHS, fully-qualified nurses start on salaries of £22,128 rising to £28,746, according to Prospects.

A shortage of nurses has been described by health service experts as risking a “national emergency”.

Labour’s Tom Watson said the listing revealed “perks nurses could only dream of” and described the adverts as “simply grotesque” in a tweet.

HuffPost UK has verified the advertisements as genuine.

PIP, which replaced the former Disability Living Allowance, provides money for people who need extra care or help with mobility as a result of a disability.

Eligibility for PIP – which has standard and enhanced rates – is determined through assessments, which have been criticised in the past for flawed processes and for humiliating claimants.

Atos’s Independent Assessment Service said its PIP assessments are only ever carried out by qualified health professionals, and that these professionals are in demand. 

“We are committed to providing a professional and compassionate assessment service for every claimant,” the company said in a statement.

“An appropriate package for our skilled team of health professionals is crucial to this aim.”

A government spokesperson said: “We’re committed to ensuring everyone has a good experience at their PIP assessment, and it’s important that the health professionals carrying out assessments have the right clinical experience. 

“We want the NHS to be the safest healthcare system in the world and our dedicated nurses underpin this ambition.

“There are 16,100 more nurses on our wards since 2010, 52,000 nurses currently in NHS training and we have made more funding available to increase university training places.”