AtoS’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael O’Donnell – A Man With A Mission

‘It’s not a test! Not about ‘passing’ or failing!!’ disclaim Dr Gunnyeon and Mr Grayling – then the latter forgets and refers to it as one   (*wink*):


“The final test for DLA has not been designed – I have used the word test – (Oops!) the final assessment for DLA…” 




Professor Michael O’Donnell >>>→

  • Chief Medical Officer UnumProvident – March 2000 – Sept 2010.
  • Chief Medical Officer Atos Healthcare – March 2011 – current.

No real surprise that he is a peddler of the ‘Work Is Good For You’ propaganda (or, as The Black Triangle Campaign prefers, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’). Well, it does pretty much amount to the same thing, wouldn’t you say, when it’s applied in a hegemonic way, and particularly towards those who are weakened by sickness or disability?

Theories: Well I already quoted Mr O’Donnell suggesting that when people are suffering from stress their GPs should (correct me if I’m wrong) not validate this or offer understanding, but rather put the responsibility for dealing with this square on the shoulders of the patient. Interesting idea that an already stressed out person should have inner resources to draw upon for this but, hey, I’m not an expert like  Mr O’Donnell.

So what is his expertise? Dunno! (As that rather fabulous ‘social entrepreneur‘, ‘Dr’ Emma Harrison CBE of A4e fame would say. D’you think I’m a sort of genius or something?!  As she did in fact say at this exact point in the ‘Benefit Busters’ series.

This is my first find. It’s from 2005, produced by the Health & Safety Executive from a ‘Review of Health Models‘ Workshop. O’Donnell was halfway through his stint as CMO at UnimProvident at the time.

There’s another couple of interesting names on the delegates list: Gordon Waddell, from Cardiff Uni‘s (formerly Unum) Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research, headed by Mansel Aylward.

Aylward and Waddell collaborated on a government publication: “The scientific and conceptual basis of incapacity benefits” in 2005 (While the department was in the early stages of funding by Unum) and a previous book in 2002, “Back Pain, Incapacity for Work and Social Security Benefits: An International Literature Review and Analysis.” And secondly, the now almost notorious Mr Simon Wessely (Google him and ME/CFS and prepare to be appalled).


“Mike O’Donnell called for a new way of looking at health. He pointed out that many of the risk factors for back pain and work stress were similar, and could be said to be part of everyday life. Denying people the opportunity to stretch themselves by avoiding any stress could be harmful – overcoming obstacles gives us a sense of achievement, and should be seen as a natural and positive part of life. He expressed concern that undue concentration on work as a health hazard may implant harmful beliefs and lead to unhelpful behaviours.”

The intention seems to be to pull ‘back pain’ away from being a concept that connects it to a physical (and therefore in most people’s eyes legitimate) source to situate it alongside ‘work stress’, which has closer connotations to an emotional/mental imbalance.

The concept of stress itself receives a reconfiguring, transforming it into a positive factor, ‘positivising’ it so that the encountering of it becomes now an ‘opportunity’ to ‘overcome obstacles’ and therefore experience the thrill of achievement.

The last sentence is sinister to my mind – ‘undue’, ‘harmful’ and ‘unhelpful’ applied to the notion that work can be a ‘health hazard’, which quite evidently it can. Heavy ideological stuff going on there.

Second find, this from the Unum website: “Sickness absence falls for third year in a row”.

Good news, one would think.

But not enough, as it seems the ill-health of workers is still a “major headache for employers”.  This might have been a cue for employers to examine pay and conditions of their workers to ensure that work was not in actuality contributing a negative effect.

Sadly, our ‘Work Is Good’ ideologues would rather ignore the illness and focus on ways of keeping people at work, regardless.

One means for this has been the introduction of the ‘fit note’ whose potential for reducing sickness absence, Mr O’Donnell states:

”can help reduce the duration of absence for people recovering from treatments or operations.  Doctors may previously have been overcautious in advising return to work when the only option they had was to declare full fitness.”

Ah, those overcautious GPs!

Curse their perpetual inability to assess a person’s capability for work!! 

Apparently their medical short-sightedness traps them within a binary system which can only conceive of their patients as either sick or well…and  until it is pointed out to them they will be unable to perceive their patients health as lying somewhere on a continuum between the two poles, or be able to take into account whether this patient or another would be better off recuperating longer or re-entering the workplace.

Its rather patronising really, isn’t it?

Suggests your average GP is not very bright in that respect!

Recommendations from the HSE document turn on a quote from Mr O’Donnell,  and reveal a deliberate intent to ‘reframe’ how people regard illness, to introduce a ‘New Model Of Health‘, and remember, this influence is not from an impartial health professional, but the employee of a discredited Insurance Company: and subsequently of the private company now processing health benefit claims for the DWP:

Framing Health Messages – ‘From the evidence presented, we can conclude that LIFE is hazardous!’ (Mike O’Donnell) 

(I expect this was met with a knowing ripple of laughter from the other delegates)

Health messages should be framed carefully and appropriately and the positive benefits of work should be promoted…. We need to take a balanced approach to the relative risks and benefits…

The basic message underpinning the biopsychosocial approach is that understanding and management of common health problems must take account of the individual, their health problem, and the context in which they live and work.

In order for this message to be successful a need exists to identify what aspects of a job or workplace make it ‘healthy’.

Although that all sounds fairly reasonable, when they talk of balance what they mean is there has been a gradual but persistent trend of raising consciousness about the adverse effects of modern working practices.

People have been falling sick in droves due to such factors as intensification of work, unhealthy unsociable hours, and having succumbed to pressure to sign away their right to not have to work an excessively long working week.

The employers are now suffering (as well they should) in terms of profits and productivity as they finally face the consequences of all this.

So it is possible to see this intent to ‘reframe work’ as a form of backlash against gains made by workers in having their work conditions acknowledged.

Now work must be conceptualised as the ‘saviour’ of the working man, it’s healthful properties promoted by ivory tower ‘experts’ who haven’t the vaguest idea of what a hard day’s work entails for most people.

Chief Medical Officer UnumProvident – March 2000 until September 2010.

Chief Medical Officer Atos Healthcare – March 2011 – current.

“Stress is a poor term that misses the point. Instead of giving out a sicknote, GP’s should say, “what are you going to do about it?”

Dr Michael O’Donnell, Consultant
Occupational Physician & Chief Medical Officer, Unumprovident.

Well, this man seems central to our new health ideology, embedded, as his theories are, within the “Work Will Set You Free” philosophy which underpins contemporary social policy.


15 thoughts on “AtoS’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael O’Donnell – A Man With A Mission

  1. jeffery davies says:

    how can a said firm do assesment on you whilst working make you unfit to work and 12 wks later do another saying you fit for work now i would call that speaking with folrk tongue

  2. Thecourtjester99 says:

    Well heres an idea for This cretin….. if its his spoken/written words that are stressing me out…. i am in the right thinking ok given his response that GP’s should be asking ‘what you going to about it’……. well one could respond with,, Chopping off MrO’Donnells’ fingers, that ripping out his tongue…. given his statements he has nothing to complain about as i am doing ‘ self help’……… wonder how that fits into his plans….. and no this is not my plan just spit balling.

  3. Laz says:

    He has no concept of pain and the knock on effects it has on the individual.Pain itself stops an indavidual from performing naturaly as it warns of bodily damge and intensifies with effort to the extent of the body putting the breaks on.Even a person of minimal intelligence knows this .This is just a way of marketing propaganda to those without pain to kill any empathy with those suffering it and in effect can be taken as a criminal act of manipulation.

  4. jed goodright says:

    it’s been a fucking PAIN reading these latest articles on here

    So if we shot him or blew him up he wouldn’t feel a thing – Hey….????

  5. Andrew Healey says:

    If this pillock is a real doctor and the medicine he prescribes does further damage and cripples you further, people should be able to bring a private action and prosecute him and take every penny he owns for malpractice.I worked in the motor trade for over 30 years I knew so- called service managers that had letters after their names but you put a spanner in their hand and they hadn’t a clue what to do, they had only read about it. This prat sounds like he has a brain the size of a pea and just repeats parrot fashion what some other prat has written. That being the case he would fit in well with those very dangerous pea brained prats of an unelected shambles we have in parliament at the moment. There must be a case for the European Court of Human Rights. Is there not a line in the Hippocratic Oath Above all else, you must do no Harm. What all of this shambles is spouting is nothing more than eugenics, in some cases forcing people to take their own lives. Imagine someone with spinal injuries being forced to twist and bend putting them well beyond their pain threshold were death would be a welcome relief. There should be some type of fund set up to support the relatives of the victims of these Nazis, I’ll bet there is an American lawyer who fought unum in the states, after all they are using the same practices here.

  6. Findlow says:

    Lots of “re-framing” , “transforming”and all their jargon, going to go on at this conference of the Royal Society of Medicine:


    SESSION TWO: Transforming models of disability
    Chair: Dr Nick Kendall, Director, KendallBurton

    3.00 pm
    Keynote: Transforming models of disability
    Prof Sir Mansel Aylward CB, Chair, Public Health Wales and Director, Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research, Cardiff, Wales

    3.30 pm
    Thematic workshops (delegates to pick one)

    A) How do you persuade the medical profession to change their approach to the models of disability?
    Facilitator: Professor Ewan Macdonald OBE, Head of Healthy Working Lives Group, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences University of Glasgow Public Health
    Presenter: Nikki Brouwers, Australia.

  7. DAVID A SHAW says:

    These men are delusional, discredited, but very dangerous indeed. Each one of them needs a to be made disabled and then see if they shoot so much nonsense out of their evil mouth.

  8. Andrew Healey says:

    He even looks like the model of a Nazi and he has the effrontery to wear a poppy, he deserves nothing less than a gallows at Nuremberg, along with all his kind.He is criminally negligent causing untold suffering to thousands of sick and or disabled HUMAN BEINGS . if there was any justice left at all in Britain, the corrupt bankers, corrupt politicians, the likes of Emma Harrison,etc etc would all be behind bars for a very long time and all their ill gotten gains back in the public purse were they were stolen from in the first place.

  9. Linda Ashford says:

    I’ve read some of the Mansel Aylward documents, they are pseudoscience at its worst, and just a load of rubbish. None of this stuff has been produced and put to proper peer review of working practicing doctors, and these conferences are just an attempt to legitimise the biopsychosocial model of disability which as far as I can see is just about as wacky as you can get. Even if I was healthy I would resent the idea that the purpose of my life was to make profit (via work) for others. Add disability denial to that and it becomes a very sick concept. It was discredited in the US and it should be discredited here. I don’t know who will lead this fight though, because if we are looking to political leaders, I don’t think there is anyone who will take this on. The basis of the whole thing is that it was designed and implemented initially as a tool for insurance companies to get out of paying out on insurance policies. How can that possibly be a good model for assessing the needs of disabled people.

    1. Andrew Healey says:

      Hello Linda,
      It’s not a model for assessing the needs of disabled people, it’s a con, pure and simple. These idiots have been employed by a massively corrupt British government to deny disability, solely to remove benefits from the disabled. Mathew Hopkins is back and the witch hunts are on again. The really sad thing is, in the British political system there are very few people actually speaking up for the rights of the disabled and because of the Paralympics all disabled people are now capable of walking on water I am not trying to take anything away from the achievements of the disabled athletes each to his or her own, but we disabled are being used as scapegoats for all the theft and corruption, the British people are being lied to and they are falling for it hook,line and sinker

  10. Humanity2012 says:

    We Really Need Better People Running the Country than these Out of Touch Clowns

    The British Political System is at the HEART of the PROBLEM

    Get the Con Dems Out Now No to a Tory 1000 Year Rich

  11. roger Allnot says:

    It seems that many of the contributors to this website, including its principal author, are intelligent and have a lot of time on their hands. Perhaps they should apply some of their undoubted skills to aid others, by actually working and paying their taxes? Or would that be too demeaning for these armchair politicians?

    1. Andrew Healey says:

      Oh one last thought I would love to go back to work you have no idea how much I miss it, my friends, the challenges, the wages, the fun and jokes, going for a drink with them,all of it. Unfortunately this crippled body wont let me anymore now I have crippling pain 24 hours a day 7 days a week instead. So keep your bigoted Tory points of view to yourself. One thing I never envisaged was being disabled and having to PLAN around my medication a trip to the supermarket.

  12. Andrew Healey says:

    It seems to me that some people shouldn’t comment on things they know Rockall about, I personally did work and paid taxes for almost 35 years and still pay tax today that is being given away to a massively corrupt EU, you know the ones who refuse to have their accounts audited and have done for the last 20 years or so. Taxes that are being given to a massively corrupt banking system, you know the ones who created the financial crisis we’re all suffering because of. As for having time on my hands it would be nice to have hands to have time on, instead of being crippled with arthritis, Arthritis that unfortunately doesn’t stop in my hands, it’s also in my Spine, Legs, Feet and the worst pain, my Groin. Not to mention nearly every vertebrae and disc the entire length of my Spine fused together for which I have to take copious amounts of Morphine. There is more but talking about it depresses me. As for applying my undoubted skills to aid others I was responsible for teaching almost every apprentice that joined the company I worked for, in all aspects of the motor trade apart from car sales, that included mechanical, engine rebuilds, gearbox rebuilds, MOTs etc, and on the parts side, stock control, stock taking, warehouse layout, stock orders, selling to trade and retail customers etc. Many of the people I taught in the 70s still work in the motor trade undoubtedly making their employers lots of money, some own their own businesses. While working I looked after my Grandmother calling to her house 4 times a day making sure she had warm food to eat, she worked in the cotton mills nearly 60 years, In the mid 90s while working full time as a warehouse manager for a national parts supplier, my younger sister 39 at the time was diagnosed with lung cancer she ran a successful child care nursery and through a botched cordotomy operation to ease the pain, lost the use of her legs and became bedridden for the last 12 months of her young life, she had two young children. I moved in with her. I cleaned her house cooked the meals, did the shopping and helped to look after her children, while working a 10 hour day sometimes 6 days a week not including travelling time. You see I was taught by my Parents, my mother died in 67, my father in 93 to help and respect others which I have done all my life. Most of my family died before they could take advantage of the things their taxes paid for, so I see it as my right to have the help I am entitled to now I have no family left to help me. It’s a pity the morons in parliament who take without giving do not have the same values. The utterly corrupt, liars, thieves and warmongering criminals that they are. Sometimes it takes an armchair politician to see all the corruption that goes on in the Houses of Parliament. Oh and by the way my 15 year old Granddaughter types what I say adding her own comments and my 11 year old Grandson wants to come and live with me to look after his poorly Grand dad.

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