The Paralympics and Atos.

Atos are one of the sponsors of the Paralympics.

I struggle to know why. Atos have the multimillion pound contract from the Department of Work and Pensions to assess people who are sick. There are multiple problems with their assessments, and they have never published the evidence, or audit standards for the work they do. They refer to people as ‘clients’, not patients. Their assessments for fitness to work includes things like pressing a button or ensuring that someone is not mentally unwell by not shaking or trembling. Nor do the assessments reflect someone with chronic disease; they are especially poor at assessing people with significant and severe mental illnesses. It’s not just me who thinks that. The BMA has called, via their Local Medical Committees, to scrap the assessments that are currently carried out. The National Audit Office also thinks that Atos are underperfoming – and indeed, Atos assessments are often wrong. A third of appeals are successful – even more if the person has advice from Citizens’ Advice – which is worrying, because it means that some people are likely to be further disadvantaged when not supported at appeal.

The human cost of this is huge. People are worried, anxious, uncertain, and the process is not transparent. GPs are often asked to write letters in support of patients – meaning that many people are being charged for reports – which should surely be paid for by Atos, as it is plain that they cannot assimilate the necessary evidence as they currently operate.

And yet Atos are sponsoring the Paralympics.

On their website they say “The Paralympic Games are elite sport events for athletes from different disability groups. However, they clearly emphasize the participants’ athletic achievements, not their disability.”

I’m worried about Atos view of ‘disability’. I’m worried that they somehow think that all people with disabilities somehow have an  elite athlete inside them. The truth is that some people are physically different and it is society that disables them; there are some disabled people who are phenomenal athletes, and there are some people who are so sick or disabled that they can’t work. Atos has made many disabled peoples’ lives miserable, and it would have been far better had they put their sponsorship money into making their system fairer. If there is a legacy from the Paralympics, I hope a small part of that will be considering how fairly we treat sick people when they are most vulnerable – currently, Atos is failing us all.

5 Responses to “The Paralympics and Atos.”

  1. colmgallagher August 30, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    the ONLY reaso atos sponsers the paras.. is to keep protesting disabled high profile peeps quiet…thats why the logo is so low key on paralympic literature

  2. David August 30, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    Atos’ poor decisions won’t matter much longer – from April 2013, Legal Aid will no longer be available for benefits cases. That should improve the statistics nicely.

  3. Elli August 30, 2012 at 1:32 am #

    My mum died in 2002. she had ‘stage three’ cancer. She was on a medical drugs trial, she was given the “last chance” chemotherapy early on to see if early treatment would stop the need for treatment later on. In her case it didn’t work… when her breast cancer spread to her liver, they no longer had chemo to try as she had already had it. I am not saying against this unfortunately I have no idea of the results of the trial as as a dependent, you are still not allowed to know results of any trial. If anything, I would assume that my mum only survived as long due to her luck at being in the aggressive chemo group. But I have no idea in reality either way.
    Anyway, my point from your article is based on this atos abilities, or not. My Mum worked, and worked hard for a charity in Shrewsbury, she ran their voluntary car service for the county until .ill
    We found that she was v bad she tried to work as normal. After that when too ill to work she went to sick pay etc. within a year she was put at ‘disability living allowance’ I don’t discredit that system, my mum was trying to get back to full employment but cancer hit her hard. I appreciate as she did that her employers couldn’t pay out, we didn’t want anyone to do that, but without her best friend with spare money, my mum would have lost her house that she had nearly paid off, her everything.
    This hasn’t been an interesting tale just a true one. A year and 27 days after diagnosis my mum died.This may make the pay or attention seem pointless to some… i.e.’things don’t work why bother’ but that way my mum wouldn’t be here, but I have no idea what the big picture is (as I have not been allowed to know but at least I hope it has given more understanding and life to others) I just hope all is well

  4. AtosKills August 30, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Thanks for writing this important blogpost.

    However, it is your colleagues in medicine who are complicit in perpetrating the crimes committed by ATOS. There should be a campaign on DNUK to shame those doctors who are implicated along with the government and ATOS in destroying the lives of these patients with disabilities and sickness.

    The T4 programme in 1940s Germany wouldn’t have occurred without the active assistance of willing doctors who were more than prepared to do the State’s bidding.

    Where is the humanity in today’s medical profession? Why don’t more doctors take a stand on this issue? If doctors can find it in themselves to take collective action over pay and pensions, surely something more could be done on behalf of patients?

  5. Margaret McCartney
    margaretmccartney August 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    Malcolm Harrington made it clear that there needed to be more professional judgement exercised in assessments. The Atos structure doesn’t allow this.
    I am sure that there are healthcare staff in Atos who are trying hard to do what they can to make the system fairer, but are unable to because of the way Atos works. In my view we should offer to support healthcare staff who are willing to speak out, rather than demonising them. The ultimate ‘solution’ would be for Atos to get rid of doctors and rely on clerical assessments (because if no professional judgement is required, what are the doctors there for?) I am sure this would be far worse for patients.
    many doctors have already publically stated their opposition to Atos assessments, not least the BMA via the LMCs, but the real decisions now have to be political in terms of holding Atos to account and changing the system. I know that many doctors are trying to help with this. It may not be easily visible, but it is happening. You might want to ensure that your MP is in Parliament on September 4th for a debate on Atos secured by Tom Greatrex MP.