Nurse makes heartfelt apology after Atos forced her to trick disabled people out of benefits

 

By Heather Greenaway Comments 24 Sep 2012 00:01

SCOTS nurse Joyce Drummond reveals how thousands of genuinely ill people were set up for a fall before they had even been assessed by benefits firm Atos.

Joyce has not worked since the stress of her job at Atos

A NURSE has revealed how her own life was ruined after under-fire benefits firm Atos forced her to “trick” disabled people out of cash.

Joyce Drummond’s medical training meant she knew claimants were unfit to work.

But she was told to mark people as fit if they could write or show up for an interview properly dressed.

Eventually, Joyce was carpeted by bosses for being “too nice” to claimants.

After five months, she was signed off with stress caused by “having to trick sick people out of their benefit”. She quit in July 2009 and hasn’t worked since.

Joyce said candidates were marked down if they:

*looked well-presented, with neat hair and make-up.

*turned up with a toddler.

*could sign the application form.

Public fury is growing against Atos, who have assessed thousands of people with terminal illnesses as fit for work.

And thousands with genuine chronic conditions have been dragged over the coals repeatedly by their inquisitors.

Mum-of-one Joyce, from Mosspark, Glasgow, said Atos decision makers paid no attention to her professional clinical opinion and were only interested in cutting down the number of claimants.

She reveals all the questions she was told to ask were loaded.

Joyce said:

“I stopped working for Atos three-and-a-half years ago but I still feel sick every time I think of those people deemed fit for work, when they quite clearly were incapable of doing so.

“I apologise from the bottom of my heart to all those people I had to assess during my five months in the job but the decisions were out of my hands.

“Once I realised how manipulative the assessment system was, I got out immediately. The stress of it all made me ill and I have not worked since.”

Joyce, who worked as a staff nurse at the city’s Southern General for more than 20 years, added:

“I only took the job so I could help vulnerable people get the benefits they needed.

“But it wasn’t long before I realised no one cared about my professional clinical opinion. It broke my heart and I went home in tears every night.

“People trusted me as a nurse and they confided in me. I felt I was having to stab them in the back.”

Joyce said many claimants were set up for a fall even before they came into her office in Cadogan Street, Glasgow.

She said:

“If they made it in by themselves, that was seen as a sign they could function.

“They also had to fill in a form. If they did it, it showed they could think, write and were capable of managing.

“We also had to assess their appearance. If a woman was wearing make-up and was nicely dressed, she was deemed as functioning and capable.

“If someone came in with a toddler in tow, they were doomed because if they could manage a child, they could surely work.

“If someone had a pet, they were able to function and if they smiled while talking about a pet, I had to mark down that they smiled spontaneously and were therefore not depressed.

“It was so unfair. There could be a very depressed or ill person sitting in front of me but on paper, thanks to the leading questions I had to ask, they could be judged fit to work.”

Joyce says Atos bosses expected assessors to get through 10 cases in a day and reprimanded her for being too nice. She said:

“It was impossible to do 10 a day as each claimant had a 44-minute slot. The medical director called me in one day and told me I was too nice.

“I never found out how the decisions went but when I was doing the interview, I knew what the outcome would be.

“Atos went by the philosophy that if you had a finger and could push a button, then you could work. Ridiculous.”

Last week, a Panorama documentary revealed that each week between January and August last year, 32 people died who the Government had declared could be helped back into work.

Appeals against decisions are costing the Government £50million a year.

Atos have a £206million contract from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The leader of the Scottish Parliament’s welfare reform committee pledged to dig deeper into the Atos scandal.

Labour MSP Michael McMahon said:

“There are serious questions about how Atos manage work and the growing reports of how they have caused distress to so many vulnerable people.

“Whistleblowers have an important part to play in showing just how these reforms are hurting those in genuine need. My committee will continue to investigate the workings of Atos.”

Atos last night defended their role in the benefits process. A spokeswoman said: “Our trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists use their clinical knowledge and apply the Government’s policy and criteria to each assessment.

“They make no decisions on benefit entitlement and look at each case on an individual basis.

“We understand that applying for benefit can be a difficult time which is why we try to make the part of the process we’re responsible for as comfortable as possible.”

The Scottish Daily Record

 

Comments
  • Esther Angel September 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Let’s hope more whistle blowers come forward and that they will be happy to testify once the government is taken to The Hague!

  • Laz September 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Well done Joyce,we need more honest people with the courage and integrity to come foreward and expose the lies we get from the Government & Atos.Thank You

  • Susie Ford September 24, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    This has shocked me. I’m now terrified about my assessment. If my benefit is stopped I can’t live, literally. I’m really scared.

  • 12string September 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    God bless you for telling the truth. We need more people like you to come forwards and tel it as it really is.

  • CHRIS September 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    I am one of those “plebs” that the govt seem to hate so much and sadly there’s going to be alot of this agony for sick, disabled, poor people until EVERYONE APPEALS, APPEALS AND APPEALS AGAIN, it costs millions for the appeals process, so isn’t it ‘pennywise and pound foolish’?

  • jeffery davies September 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    tory party hitmen for the dwp atos and not many mps who will shout to rid us of the firm made by tony b for the sick and now beating and killing us with it will not the house show whot they suppossed to do protect the sick and disabled not kill and starve us out jeff3

  • jefflph September 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    thankyou joice,what a terrible position you were put in,other nurses and doctors please come foward and let us know what is going on as this is wrong .. thank you jeff ..

  • jefflph September 24, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    just forgot a friend of mine was called in to atos BRISTOL.
    with his very poor liver he was asked to untie his shoes they said he was fit nothing wrong.
    how can you test a liver in this way,,SHAMEFUL .. jeff ..

  • Findlow September 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Time for all ATOS employees to speak up. The job’s toxic. It kills people. Enough.

    Big Issue readers have condemned the ATOS WCA:

    http://www.bigissue.com/mix/news/1460/atos-are-unfit-test-disability-say-big-issue-readers

  • steve davies September 24, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    We need more confessions from Atos employees to spill beans about what the fuckers do and are told to do.

  • Helen September 25, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Thank you Joyce – it is brave and good of you to speak out about this awful process which seems to indicate that anyone who can post anything is capable of working – it’s so warped it’s almost unbelievable. I get the feeling that if you contest the decisions you are deemed able just because you can complain.

  • lorraine antwis September 25, 2012 at 10:26 am

    This has me in tears :'( How did our country sink so low? Thanks to Joyce for bravely blowing the whistle. I hope Joyce recovers from this torment. Gutting.

  • kasbah September 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Well done Joyce. As someone who has had her benefits denied and is totally dependent on family for financial support, it is very encouraging to see someone with the courage to blow the whistle on such a twisted cynical organisation. I am sorry for your distress Joyce.

  • Viv Shaw September 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    my husband was a recent amputee when he ad his “interview”… he was asked to bend down and pick up a pencil….how utterley de-grading…ad despite back up from his consultant surgeon, GP etc etc was deemed fit for work from their “Health Professional”….well done forspeaking the truth Joyce….we are now having to go to a tribunal as they have taken his DLA from him and his mobility car…..absolutely disgusting…..

  • Vicki September 28, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Can I urge everyone to ask to have their assessments recorded – and if ATOS say it’s impossible, push the case (try googling for further details) and if necessary contact your MP. It’s much harder for ATOS to put in a totally fictional account of the assessment if there is a recording – if there is no point where they are obviously taking your blood pressure, then they can’t say that they did, for example.

    It is also possible that having the proceedings recorded will deter “Healthcare Professionals” from false recording and make it more difficult for others to alter the records later.

    Start by noting when you submit your E50 that you will be requesting a recording of your WCA assessment. Then, as soon as you receive notice of your WCA by ATOS or the Job Centre, tell them you want to have your assessment recorded – don’t leave it as they can make things more difficult if you don’t give them a lot of notice. Ring up the centre and say you want a recorded assessment. Stick to your guns – the DWP are still saying that those who want a recording will get it.

    The DWP are also saying that hardly anyone wants it – which they are going to use as an excuse for withdrawing the right. I believe that they are relying on ATOS to do some “slack record-keeping” so as to keep the numbers down. So please, everybody:

    Fight for your recording!

  • ODIN September 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    At least someone at Atos has a conscience

  • Vicki October 2, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Odin – alas no more, if you re-check the article, you’ll see that, “She quit in July 2009 and hasn’t worked since,” because the stress of the job made her ill.

  • David Andrews June 4, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Well, her training is in nursing, not in medicine. But nurses are able to do pretty thorough health checks, so that’s not a problem. She would indeed know that what she was being told to do was wrong. And she’s come clean about it. Thing is – having blown the whistle – she’s sacrificed any chance of ever working again. Where is there any real protection under law for whistle blowers? here is none – because the organs of government do not like whistle blowers. Well done her for making known what we all suspected was going on, and feeling very sad for her now that her life is effectively screwed now. Because HMG is not going to protect her one bit – especially since it was their scam she blew the whistle on.

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