HomeBlogDWP/ATOS/UNUM SCANDAL: An Academic Responds with Disbelief to Professor Aylward’s statement to Black Triangle and DPAC outside the IFDM2012 conference, on 11th September 2012.
  • Phill Evans September 18, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    A fascinating article and obviously from someone who is an expert in the field. My comment is not on the content but rather on the presentation. The mixture of bold, italic and underlined text, along with web links, makes it well night unreadable. Sorry to be a nitpicker, but my eyesight is reasonably good an I struggled. Might be better to use plain text only?


    • JJ September 19, 2012 at 12:11 am

      We began the post with this: This paper has been formatted for ease of accessibility. Please find the original version of this article here

  • Mike Caics September 19, 2012 at 1:51 am

    A great article Gill! I agree with every aspect of what you have forensically examined. I feel Professor Aylward has rather fallen into his own BPS Mechanism, and is slowly being drawn apart. A man who tries to distance himself from his own rhetoric is one who suffers from a guilty conscience! One who attempts to divorce himself from his professional missives is a man whose conscience threatens to devour him whole. For all the Bio-Psycho-Social Model is ‘supposed’ to have some profound meaning, it fails to ‘prove’ a damn thing. There is as much relevance in Kellog’s Enemas as there is in all of the esteemed Professors Works, and probably more greater value too. Surely the mind-numbingly tedious notion of “healthy mind equals a healthy body” encapsulates the whole of the encyclopaedic nonsense that tries to pass itself off as “Science.” The ever present danger of ever allowing any Scientist the freedom to pass their concepts directly from the unproven, untested and irrelevant ‘laboratory’ of professional opinion into the ears and minds of Parliamentary or Government Ministers has always threatened those who, by dint of painstaking research, investigation, repeated (and more importantly ‘repeatable’ ) experimentation and the collection of multiple examples of proofs carry out their Science within expected levels of conscious professional and mathematical discipline. Anything that provides neither Empirical Data nor any form of reliable Statistical Data should be dismissed as ‘worthless.’ I think Professor Aylward has wasted much of his professional reputation in the pursuit of a Weapon of Science: one might suggest a new WMD that Government could put to any political purpose it desires. That is perhaps his greatest folly? Yet Aylward must yet face the ignominy and rebuke of disabled and sick alike because of the numerous suicides he has unwittingly (or perhaps through sheer professional conceit and ignorance) tainted his and every other hand which has attested to the subject matter used to wage a propaganda and social injustice “War” against the “most vulnerable.” In my opinion Aylward has less chance of thinking himself into a state of ‘innocence’ over those needless deaths, [triggered by the application of his allegedly “scientific” evidence through the Work Capability Assessment] than the young, terminally ill man I met some months ago who has since, slipped into the final stages of pancreatic cancer, being able to “think himself well.” BPS is a joke, a very bad joke with a very unfunny punch-line. It’s Medical methodologies have no basis in fact. It’s Psychological analysis is spurious at best and it’s Sociological analysis is actually more like the musings of an undergraduate thesis! There is not a single idea that is original: for every concept has been discussed by every Victorian quack!

    Gill Thorburn’s analysis strips bare the corpse of the Bio Psycho Social Model, paring back the skin of Professor Aylward’s studies to reveal the hollow bones of mid-Victorian early debates about Diagnosis and the Nature of Illness. She brilliantly illustrates and highlights inconsistencies in Aylward’s ‘theories’ and a history of dismissive ambivalence towards any notion of proof, evidence or the creation of a body of research and /or Empirical Data which directly supports his assertions.

    When ‘bad science’ is used to prop up the intolerances, bigotries and prejudices of Government and Governmental Authorities the outcome is always one where the policy of Government appears elevated and authoritative, even though the ‘science’ behind the Politics is actually being used to justify far-reaching, objectionable and even cruel political policies.

    What is ably shown in the article is a full understanding of many of the aspects of the BPS Model which most people (disabled and able bodied) may well be unaware. There is much to be learned, and through people like Gill we are ALL better informed.

  • scrapheapchallenge September 19, 2012 at 1:56 am

    that’s right I have *so* much to “gain” from being incapacitated – I get to “gain” poverty, I got to gain the loss of my business and income, I got to gain the loss of my home, I gained the loss of an ability to drive myself most of the time, I gained the joys of constant pain, I gained the delightful surprise of random severe agonising muscle spasms, I gained the embarrassment of having to ask for help to do the most basic things, I gained the inability to care for myself, I gained the pleasure of being housebound (and no I don’t have a tv, or games consoles, or a broadband internet line – just an old second hand computer and a small data limit on tethering via an outdated mobile I got for free because no one else wanted it). I gained the loss of my social life, oh yes and I gained LOTS of lovely medical appointments.

    Yup, so much to gain from a spinal injury, why on earth didn’t I do it sooner?

  • Gill Thorburn September 19, 2012 at 11:05 am

    I’d just like to say how gratified I am to see my work be of some use to the community 🙂
    And isn’t it marvellous that the internet makes it possible for us to spread and share information in this way? I’ve said before that without all the myriad of material that others have put online I wouldn’t have been able to put together such a strong argument. It’s very important that we keep doing this!

    And in that context I would like to give a credit to the Issuu user ‘maxhead’ from whose account I sourced some of the material referenced in this article. They have more documents of interest here: http://issuu.com/maxhead

    Also for anyone interested in witnessing a thorough academic ‘thrashing’ of the ‘psychogenic’ approach to physical illness I would recommend getting hold of Angela Kennedy’s new book “Authors of our own misfortune?” which I ‘m currently reading.
    I think it will become an important volume in the intellectual struggle against these appalling ‘reforms’. It’s now available at Amazon:

  • Julia September 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Very good piece. Thanks for this.

    What do you think about the government sponsored research done last year (I think) which found that only 20% of Uk employees are neither obese nor have at least one health condition? This large-scale survey of the UK workforce has, unsuprisingly, not been widely publicised. But if only 20% of employees are neither obese nor unhealthy, then of course the government want to ensure we all think it’s fine to keep on working regardless of chronic illness. It seems to me that despite increased longevity (probably largely due to the NHS) general levels of health in this country have deteriorated in the last 30 odd years and will continue to do so, especially under the present government, because neoliberal economics has greatly worsened inequality. Economic inequality has been shown in The Spirit Level and associated research to be related to poorer health, decreased longevity and a plethora of social problems.

  • stellio September 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    It’s all so depressing. Cameron would be happier rounding us all up and shoving us into the gas chamber. I can’t believe he actually had personal experience of disability.

    • Chrissie Fryde September 20, 2012 at 9:27 am

      Yes, just after reading the notice that states “Work Makes You Free”. They are slowly and inexorably changing it to “They Make You Work For Free”. And we all know what happened to those unable to work.

  • Sue September 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    First of all I should like to thank you for your dedication to this cause; the research you have done to write this article amazes me.
    When ever I hear this BSP rubbish spouted it makes me so angry. My mind is drawn back to my youth when I used to watch miners walking to the coal pit ( a 3-4 mile walk) to then spend hours working seams only 3-4 feet high, I think of how work ENRICHED their lives as I recall their stooped figures walking by ; years of working bent double had made it impossible for the older men to stand straight. They were the lucky ones. My great grandfather was badly injured in a mine explosion. He was retired with a small pension. It makes my heart bleed to think that, if it was now in the 21st century, ATOS would have found him fit for work. The BSP model seems to deny that years of hard physical labour has an immense effect on the body. I have seem so many history programmes where ancient bodies are examined and their bones tell a story of hard physical labour which has contributed to their death. Yet in the 21st century we are being sold the idea that “Work heals us” “Work is Good for us”. I do agree that keeping ones mind active and doing as much exercise as you can is beneficial, however where the Government/ATOS/DWP are concerned this is not the agenda. If they were acting in an altruistic way to try and benefit the health of the sick and disabled why are they closing Remploy factories? The WCA assessment is designed not to help us but mearly to save the government money. The BSP model is designed to add to the stress that chronically sick and disabled people suffer and also to reduce their income to starvation levels. I read recently that 47% of people found fit for work, have not found work and have been too ill to register with JSeekers. They are currently receiving no benefits at all. In other words they have £0.00 income. Some are supported by family, some have resorted to begging, but the truth is no one knows how many are left stranded, alone and slowly dying of starvation.

  • Findlow September 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I really salute the writer of this article for all the dedicated research she has done. I dearly hope that this work will be very widely shared and spread. The architects of the current welfare “reform” scandal need to be held to account, now, and redress given to all the sick and disabled people who are being made to suffer. Sadly of course, it’s too late for the poor souls who have already died.

  • Dissabled dave September 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    There is also a view amongst the medical profession that chronic pain is caused by depression because most people with chronic pain are depressed. I was sent on a pain management course at my local hospital where this view was put forward. I pointed out to the psychiatrist that I didn’t become depressed until I’d been in pain for over three years, to which he replied that I was probably depressed during that time and I just wasn’t aware of it. So I offered the following scenario to him:

    You are not depressed at the moment, but imagine that starting at midnight I follow you around all day every day. When you get up in the morning, I kick you in the testicles as hard as I can. When you arrive at work, again I kick you in the testicles as hard as I can. I do the same when you stop for your morning coffee break, when you stop for lunch, when you start your afternoon shift, when you have your afternoon tea break, when you arrive home in the evening, and when you go to bed.

    I bet that within a few weeks you would be extremely depressed. And that would be from what is only intermittent pain. I have had chronic pain 24/7 for nine years. After that I think that I am entitled to be depressed. I hope that you can now understand that it is chronic pain which causes depression, not depression that causes chronic pain.

    He was silent for a good five minutes, and then said “I see what you mean. What I was taught, is clearly wrong. From now on I’m going to help people cope with their depression and pain as best I can. Not tell them that they would be pain free if they weren’t depressed.”

    So I managed to get one psychiatrist in one hospital to change his view, but there are still thousands out there who still believe that “it is all in the mind.”

    • Economic Bob January 4, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      Makes perfect sense to me.
      My sister has gone/going through similar and is currently trying pain killer etc to find the best for hers amongst other things.
      Reading your post helped me understand her depression better from the pain she is going through – thank you

      p.s. would you agree that dealing with the cause of the pain is the key element then? I hope you get the help you need.

      • Dissabled dave January 5, 2013 at 6:33 pm

        I certainly would agree that dealing with the pain must be the priority. Is your sister aware of the PainSupport web-site http://www.painsupport.co.uk/index.asp? This is a free to access site (not even a membership fee) for people with chronic pain, and there is a lively forum http://www.painsupport.co.uk/connect/dfviewtopics.asp where questions can be asked, and answers given by those with practical experience of chronic pain. If your sister uses the search facility she could find information of the various combinations of medication that have worked for other people. Just “talking” on the forum to people who genuinely understand helps reduce depression. The “Laughter is the Best Medicine” thread is my area of expertise, and I try to get at least 1 joke per day put up but often fail…

  • DAVID A SHAW September 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    This man and his discredited work are beyond rationality. This type of pseudo science can only be used for political gain and the advancement of bigotry, ignorance and stupidity among those who know nothing of the lives of those in the Disabled community. Neither do they know of the conditions in which we all bravely contend with on a daily basis. If i were in charge of the body which this man belongs to i would strike him off, as what he says has no basis in reality. Maybe he should just get one of the imagined illnesses, yes Fibromyalgia would be a good one i feel.

  • Gill Thorburn September 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I just need to point out that I’ve discovered that during changes made during my own editing I neglected to update one of the references, so that when I refer to my original article on the subject it should link to ref [2], not [1] which is a copy of an interview that Aylward gave. Just wanted to avoid any confusion!
    The ‘plain format’ link that BT give at the top has already been corrected.

  • Gill Thorburn September 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    And to everyone, as ever, I am totally knocked out by what people contribute in comments on these articles. The personal stories and observations always get to me, and particularly the fact that everyone is informed and comes to their conclusions through their actual experiences of life. Very much puts these ‘theories’ invented by Prof Aylward and his ilk to shame.

    • Karen M August 11, 2013 at 8:21 am

      Great article Gill. Where do you think Aylward stands with “learned helplessness” and disability? I think Martin Seligman’s “psychology” is also having an effect on social security policy, a poisonous effect.

  • Grayling October 18, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/28/david-cameron-disability-benefits Stuck in a 90’s timewarp …and no it wasn’t New Labour that started all this …it was Free Market zealot Peter ” I’ve a little list ” Lilley during the Major Tory Govt …there were ” coincidental ” adverts for Unum / Unum Provident ? in the press at the time …this didn’t go unnoticed by ” Private Eye ” but a conflict of interests was denied …so that’s all right then as they say in The Eye

  • Serenity October 19, 2012 at 10:36 am

    It’s just an extension of the silly American idea about positive thinking, I found this interesting.

  • Economic Bob January 4, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Great article, read it and feel i understood a great deal of the detail. After reading your comments here I can only add my 2 cents (which unfortunately is kinda playing devils advocate, but hopefully it has some worth)

    As we all know the ruling factor for the government is balancing the books. This is so vastly complex and opinionated that it is carried out in a modular form by ‘experts’ taught by previous ‘experts’ and so on.

    These people have recently had newer and newer statistical system access and the system is always changing influenced by power and opinion more than we would ever like it.

    My point is, the system is trying to save money on the increasing numbers of ‘claimants’ who play ill to live off of money that coul dbe used in a better way. I understand that the people it affects must go through hell, but our system is evolving and trying to find ways to defend itself against claims that ‘my back hurts, so pay my bills please – forever’ has become a non-disputable state of life for so many fraudsters that, in my opinion, have no honour and self-respect.

    This new system is wrong for the genuine claimants and should be more carefully administered, but the false claimants have nothing better to do than say their problem until they believe it themself and try to convince others their lie is truth, because until its disproven, they keep their benefits.

    Instead of pulling the system apart, why not devise a system that no longer leaves the window open for the false claimants and considers the complex issues that are already being included and present THAT system as an alternative. If it uses a reliable method to determine the ‘definitely false’, ‘probably false’, ‘probably genuine’ and ‘definitely genuine’ catergories based on FACTS, then it seems you have a perfect new system that can be modified as new medical info is proven.

    The issue is the system shows the powers that be a shift of benefit claims, and a shift usually means a loophole or trend due to other factors, and they try to address the issue directly instead of finding the problem.
    …For example, we all know wages are rising slower than housing, and letting is slowly taking over the country. People who can’t get a mortgage like their parents had are feeling less inclined to work for rent and cannot get a job that pays enough for the place they want and feel they deserve. These people are usually unskilled workers and run in the circles of people who come from generations of ‘system players’. These people advise them of the ‘loopholes’ and ‘how to play the system’ and so it perpetuates. When the government ses this proportion of people rise and the benefits outgoing increase, do they drop house prices or give away mortgages?..no, they try to stop the age ranges of people who can get a council house, so these people get to stay home with their parents, and then we get another problem. (p.s. I am none of the above, am a homeowner and have only had 2 weeks off work since I was 14, except holiday etc, worked during my studies between 14 and 18, and am now in my mid 30’s, and have no kids yet)

    I applaud and respect the genuine deserving claimers and wish we could make their lives better, but we need to create a system that catches the bluffer and supports that with proven evidence so the tax drain is reduced. Then the reduced genuine claimers can be given more as there is more stretch in the budget to reward them for the hard work they usually give before their unfortunate need arises. As other may have already said ‘what if it ‘genuinely’ happened to you?’

    …and in respone to ‘scrapheapchallenge’ : The people who fall from the height you mentioned are the first i’d put as ‘probably genuine’ as you had nothing to gain through it’ the ‘probably false’ and worse usually come from people never to have worked, or built up anything to lose, and are the ones who need checking, as they usually had to gain from falsely claiming.

    Sorry if I offend anyone but I am trying to be level-headed.

    • Karen M August 11, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Economic Bob, thank god we live in a democracy still and that nobody has spurted any bile at what you say.

      I was treated as a potential “scrounger” by the system, despite loads of medical evidence (facts) that I had serious problems and these problems were degenerative and life-long. A failed WCA and tribunal made my condition much worse and so I have to receive more and expensive treatment. So I was ruled fit to work, then my GP said no absolutely not fit to work, then not able to look for work as I am not insurable because I am a health risk to myself and others but still not able to claim social security. So out of that episode any costs saved by DWP were wiped out (and overtaken) by the expense of specialist treatments and medication to the NHS.

      The fraud rate of ESA is less than 1%, this means over 99% of claimants are not fraudsters. The Daily Mail always gets this wrong.

      Anyone who is on ESA is reassessed, even those with cancer and have undergone treatment, even those in kidney failure and undergoing dialysis. There was a case of a person with Down’s syndrome being asked “when will you get better?” and a man with an arm missing from before birth being asked jokingly “When will it grow back?”

      Once you start thinking about “deserving claimers” you are creating an even more divisive society. Think of Germany in the 1930’s and the treatment of the disabled- forced sterilisation to begin with and then the right to life denied them by the state and a passive populace. This was all based on spurious “medical facts” about eugenics.

      Much better for the UK to go back to the Personal Work Assessment where the GP’s opinion based on the medical history and examination of his/her patient actually counted and was respected by the DSS.

      Your point about “experts” learning from “experts” is valid. Interestingly the Scottish Parliament have brought in a Dane, Jon Kvist, to help formulate a unified social security plan for a devolved Scotland. While he is an expert, he is far removed from Aylward and his like and so won’t pass on the same Wesselyian biopsychosocial bias that dominates Westminster and Whitehall.

  • Dissabled dave January 5, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    A sensible approach, but the figures given out by Government are actually false. Out of the disabled benefits, a freedom of information request established that only (if I remember correctly) 0.7% of claims are wrong, but out of that over half of the wrong payments are due to Department for Work and Pensions errors rather than fraudulent claims by claimants, and of those down to the claimants fault around half are due to unintentional errors where people have made a genuine error in completeing the 32 page claim form, so the actual number of deliberately fraudulent claims is very small indeed, about 0.17%. The percentage of MPs who made fraudulent claims on their expenses is much, much higher, yet they are claiming the moral high ground.

  • Stephen Bunting January 10, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Pure evil. Demonising extremely sick people for what will ultimately be private gain. Do any of these bastards involved have any sense of shame? Apparently not.

  • Uneducated Richard April 16, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I have not read such a illuminating piece of research for a very long time. It seems to me that at the rate that Professor Aylward’s studies have advanced physical & psychological understanding must have him well on the way to mentally walking on water, It causes me a great deal of concern when the government resort to use the study of a Frankenstein like Megalomaniac who’s obvious only concern is to see his name in light whether for the good of mankind or for its destruction. Thank you for putting this on line to be read & keep researching.

  • Malcolm Mort, Cardiff. August 11, 2013 at 4:12 am

    My dealings with the Benefits Agency go back as far as 1998 when I applied for the DLA Care and Mobility components. In my case I had been invalided from the Merchant Navy in 1975 in which I was serving as a 3rd Engineer and Senior Electrical Officer as unfit for further seagoing employment due to Arthritis and Spondylosis. I retrained at the Polytechnic of Wales in Work & Method Study.
    At the age of 39 I failed to obtain employment in my new career as
    an Industrial Engineer, but was fortunate enough to get a staff post as an Engineering Inspector with a Cardiff firm of Aeronautical & General Engineers doing contract wok for the Ministry of Defence as a disabled person with a green card.Unfortunately in 1985 I was made redundant and became interested in journalism in the field of disability problems.
    Unfortunately in 1987 I started to have problems with the re-occurrence of back pain, limping and staggering when walking.
    I made repeated claims for the DLA Care and Mobility Benefits which were rejected on what I had said in the claim pack, the
    visiting doctors medical examination report and the rejection by the Decision maker. On the first occasion I appealed and lost. I let about 6 months pass and applied again. This was rejected on
    the same grounds. In due course I again applied with the help of a solicitor and was rejected in the same way. I decided not to
    appeal, but to let more time pass until 1998. On this attempt I
    got the same letter of rejection although a report from a surgeon had been sent with my application. However to my surprise their
    letter of rejection also referred to a report written by my GP. I saw my GP and asked why he had submitted a report on my health condition without first examining me. He told me that he had not been asked for one and was prepared to write a report if I needed one. I put the matter in the hands of a solicitor who was approved to do work for the Benefits Agency and we challenged
    the benefits agency with a report from my GP who said my health condition would get worse and I was aware of it. He also mentioned the safety risks my health condition exposed me to.
    The Benefits Agency changed the decision makers findings in my favour and I received a considerable benefit back payment. However from the misery I went through over those years I cannot come to terms with the way I was treated by the Benefits Agency Medical Services contract doctors who must be brainwashed, blind and devoid of common sense. I finally make the point that I as a person who was trained in work and method study know that the fitness to work tests are a load of nonsense
    as well as the point scoring system because they do not consider the working physical aspects of the benefit claimants body when
    under load. My experiences are before the introduction of ATOS and their computerized system which I see as a way of deskilling the examination system and creating a one fits all system which is illogical and unfit for purpose like the unworkable legislation
    newly introduced by this Westminster Con-Dem Coalition Government. Let us face it. Where there is no sense there is no feeling!

    • Karen M August 11, 2013 at 9:53 am

      I’ve been through the idiotic system. First round (Atos mental health nurse with no neurological training) failed both WCA and appeal despite abundant and solid medical evidence of the effects of systemic neuropathy, diffuse osteoarthritis and CRPS. Second round a better ESA50 and less medical evidence submitted and was put in the Support Group without going through a WCA. Same degenerative medical conditions, being degenerative a bit worse than at the first round. Just waiting for round 3 which will again find me fit for work.
      I wish they would go back to the old PCA, more objective and a clearer outcome.

  • Karen M August 11, 2013 at 8:07 am

    “The assessment of Work Capacity is frustrated by the meaningless pursuit for objectivity”

    How on earth can Aylward’s words be applied when registered doctors have a duty of care towards their patients, a duty of care arising out of a meaningful medical history taking and the objective and meaningful examination of signs and symptoms? Unless of course he expects in time the duty of care to be abandoned by “the bio-psycho-social paradigm shift”. This appears to be happening.

    His call to “Abandon the forlorn pursuit of objectivity” and to “Embrace the bio-psycho-social paradigm shift”. This appears to have been adopted by Dr Peverley (Sunderland area GP) in a diatribe printed in the GP trade magazine Pulse.

    “Embrace the bio-psycho-social paradigm shift” Newspeak comes to mind…

  • Annos August 13, 2013 at 2:31 am

    “Paul Foot on the Insurance Company Unum and Cuts to Disability Benefit in Private Eye from 1995”


    “Also from 1995: Tories Reject Report on Poverty in Wales as ‘Communist Propaganda’”


  • Andrew Long December 19, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Your outrage does you credit, but ultimately this represents the extension of BPS theory from us ME/CFS sufferers, amongst others like Gulf War Syndrome and IBS, to the entire disabled community. I can’t help wondering where everyone was ten or twenty years ago when the reputations of our often very severe illnesses were being destroyed. Perhaps if someone had stuck up for us at the time, instead of swallowing nonsense about there being ‘no biomedical evidence’ for these illnesses and patients ‘not being motivated to recover’, then it might not have ended up being the thin end of the wedge.

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