At least, they try to. New style advert in the BMJ today. Previous ads have emphasised that working for Atos, as ‘disability assessors’ for their contract with the DWP, is good for ‘work life balance‘. The newly worked ad says that “you could make the difference that gives someone on incapacity benefit a brighter future…It’s a vitally important role that aims to change lives for the better.”
Applicants for the jobs should perhaps know first: a third of people appeal the decision, and 40% of those are upheld, so we could argue that the assessments aren’t very accurate. (and what about the people who don’t have the ability to make an appeal or the resources to do so? Where agencies like Citizens’ Advice are involved, there is a greater chance of winning an appeal – meaning that the person who appeals without support is less likely to win. This would not support the idea of a fair assessment.)
Second, applicants should know that they will not have full access to NHS notes, and thus not be able to get accurate and full information about diagnosis and treatment. They should also know that they will be expected to make ‘point in time’ assessments. This can be very difficult, especially in mental health diagnosis , which will include, for example, drop -down boxes to tick if someone is ‘sweating’ and ‘rolling’ in the chair, supposedly as sure-thing signs of serious mental illness. Doctors should know that mental illness can be chronic, can fluctuate, and can be treated; which can reduce some symptoms but will not always mean that a person able to work. Doctors thinking of working for Atos should have a look online at the many testimonials from patients who have felt that the basis for normal working in Atos- a computer based protocol tickbox assessment – is degrading and distressing. They should also read Professor Malcolm Harrington’s review and criticisms of the system.