ROS WYNNE JONES’ REAL BRITAIN
Whistleblower tells the inside story of Atos
The many disabled people who tell stories of heartbreaking WCA judgements will be both heartened and outraged by Dr Wood’s testimony
In February of this year, Dr Greg Wood received an email from his employer, Atos.
He had filed a Work Capacity Assessment report on a benefits claimant with chronic and serious mental health problems – including psychosis – saying she was unfit for work.
“I was told to amend the report,”
A former navy doctor who had served in Iraq, 48-year-old Dr Wood had been promoted by Atos as a Mental Health Champion – one of only a few assessors in the company who mentored others.
“The claimant was in and out of psychiatric hospital,”
“She was completely distracted in our interview. I could see she was not fit for work.”
WCA assessors work on a points system.
Claimants need to gather 15 or above points to be declared unfit for work and eligible for Employment Support Allowance.
Dr Wood claims he was told to amend the report to show fewer points.
“I thought, they haven’t even seen the patient, how can they know whether she is fit for work?”
It was not uncommon for reports to be reviewed and amendments asked for, but in this case Dr Wood felt so strongly about the claimant’s case that he resigned.
He is now critical of some of the Atos processes – which fulfil criteria set out by the Department for Work and Pensions.
An Atos spokesman said:
“We never ask doctors to make any changes to a report unless there are specific clinical quality issues identified within it.”
The many disabled people who write to this column every week telling stories of heartbreaking WCA judgements will be both heartened and outraged by Dr Wood’s testimony.
From the Manchester “oyster card” to the BBC website, Atos’s richly-rewarded tentacles are everywhere in public life.
On Monday, tickets for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow went on sale, sponsored by Atos.
When Dr Wood joined the firm in September 2010, he was a supporter of stringent medicals for people on benefits.
During his 16-year career as a naval medical officer, performing medicals had been the “bread and butter” of his job.
During his first months with Atos, he had no concerns about the assessments.
Earlier that year, in May 2010, the Coalition government had been elected.
The following spring, in 2011, the system was overhauled to make the tests more stringent.
“The computer templates changed and made the process unduly harsh,” he says.
“The language among assessors would be ‘I had to score him’ as if that was a bad thing, or they had done something wrong.
“No one ever said that you mustn’t award points, but I felt the training and the atmosphere led you that way.”
He also felt some assessors were just following computer programs.
“Some are sat on a computer filling in answers,”
“Instead, they should be looking at the patient and saying, ‘there’s a problem here, they haven’t got any hands’.”
Assessors were instructed to ask a list of questions designed to show the people they were interviewing could do things.
“Did you make yourself a cup of tea this morning?”
sounded friendly but was designed to see if a claimant could use his hands effectively.
Dr Wood wanted to conduct actual medicals:
“not ask people whether they owned a cat”.
Alarm bells first sounded at a WCA training session he attended in June 2011.
He says loose interpretations of official guidelines were being offered by trainers
“such as ‘if they can walk from room to room, they can walk 200 metres, which equals no points’.”
When Dr Wood pointed out that walking from room to room was not at all the same as walking 200 metres, he says his objection was dismissed.
He also began to notice that a lot of people were scoring zero points.
“That indicated a problem to me. Why not six points when they had obvious problems? Why zero?”
And there were other cruelties.
“There was a man with motor neurone disease they wanted me to bring in for a face-to-face assessment,”
Dr Wood says.
“It was just cruel. He should have just been declared terminally ill based on documents we had seen.
“All that extra stress and worry of an appeal, and who knows how long he has left?” he shrugs.
“By January 2013, I got the message I should shut up.”
But after 16 years in military medicine, including a stint at a remote desert fort at Amarah in south-eastern Iraq, Dr Wood decided he would rather speak out.
Since his resignation, the Department for Work and Pensions has said it is bringing in external auditors to Atos and will retrain assessors.
“That told me I was right,”
Dr Wood says.
“And what’s really interesting is that if they have got decisions wrong for two years there could be legal implications involving one to two million cases.”
Yesterday, an Atos Healthcare spokesman said:
“We completely refute allegations made by Dr Wood that Atos Healthcare acts inappropriately or unethically.”
He added the WCA process was developed with the Government and all practitioners were well trained and guided in their day-to-day work.
And a DWP spokesperson said: “Healthcare professionals are only requested to amend their reports if they fall below the high quality standards we expect.”
Throughout his time at Atos, the part Dr Wood says he found most distressing was that so many of the people being tested were extremely vulnerable.
“That’s what began to disgust me. Really, you just end up cracking down on people who can’t defend themselves. That’s not why I went into medicine.”
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25 thoughts on “Dr Greg Wood: Atos doctors and Assessors should be looking at the patient and saying ‘there’s a problem here, they haven’t got any hands’”
There is a simple solution until this discriminatory and unreliable WCA process is dumped.
If Atos give someone less than the required 15 points and that claimant wins an appeal against a wrong decision. Atos are then responsible for all costs involved and will pay the claimant wrongly assessed compensation for the stress, loss of benefit and anxiety that they have caused.
Why should the tax payer be made liable for their mistakes?
Sanction Atos & the DWP and let’s see how these Corporate Scroungers like a taste of their own medicine.
In autumn last year the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office lambasted the Government over the fact that no financial penalties or sanctions have ever been imposed on Atos for contractual breaches and mishaps. The situation is unchanged.
What a great idea! They’d certainly owe me a lot of money for the stress that they heaped on my husband and I. I almost took my own life – I wonder what that would be worth?? Oh, of course!!! NOTHING! If you ask ATOS or the DWP!!!
it’s so so sad.. my poor old grandad would turn in his grave if he could read this… he fought thru 2 wars for this country & now it’s being shafted… geesh
“We completely refute allegations made by Dr Wood that Atos Healthcare acts inappropriately or unethically.”
Faithfully, or at least conscientiously, implementing an unethical system on behalf of an unethical government is necessarily unethical. Look up the word “refute” in a dictionary and think again, morons.
It’s encouraging that at least one tabloid (plus the Scottish Daily Record) is prepared to give coverage to this ongoing scandal; however, bear in mind that the Mirror’s circulation is relatively small in comparison to its right-wing rivals (Daily mail, Express, Star, Sun, etc.) and therefore the paper’s more humane message tends to get drowned out in the swirl of vindictive scapegoating of claimants being enthusiastically peddled by the rest of the corporate media (Guardian and Independent exempted).
Personally, I look forward to the day when the circulation (and viewing figures) of these repulsive organisations collapses to zero. Wishful thinking I guess, but one can dream…
I remember the Sun took a battering post-Hillsborough as a boycott took place. Perhaps it could work again, focussing on the deceitful Daily Mail?
Good idea. Readers of that dreadful assassinating enterprise take note. They kill some people, force others to an early grave and deny dreams to others. Women who want to be priests and devote their lives to goodness and helping humanity out for instance. What’s that about? It’s 2013 and still they’re digging in their heels like sulking toddlers. Not the “Church”, mind you, which has it’s own issues, but this blinking pipsqueak of a rag. Claiming to be “Christian” and doing everything in it’s power to degrade and denounce women day after day after day after day. And as you can see, disabled people too. And others besides, this is a problematic venture and no mistake. Lawless Christians. Imagine a disabled woman trying to be a Priest, no bloody chance, this rag would turn up to the panel and shoot her at point blank range and spend the next few months explaining it’s rationale to the nation and no doubt calling on friends in high places to bear witness to their otherwise good character. And that’s what most of us have had to deal with all our bloody lives. Consider your dreams, then imagine having this kind of demon going after them like a red rag to a bull all your life. Who would win? Well we all know who would win. Boycott it. Read something worth reading. Broaden your horizons. Your children will thank you. Your soul will thank you. The soul of the nation will thank you. You’ll be far more likely to gain entry into paradise.
Brilliant idea! Put it up as a petition on epetitions.direct.gov.uk/ and I will sign it and publicise it. If you get 100,000 to sign it then it has to be discussed by MPs. I would add that as well as compensation for stress the victim should also get all their costs refunded; taxi fares, costs of doctors letters and reports, loss of earnings for the person who goes with the victim, etc, etc. If Atos have to pay out 5-10 times the amount they get for the assessment if they get it it wrong, they will soon pull out of the contract.
Thanks Dave. Atos seem to be immune from any wrong doing and mistakes. Making them responsible and legally liable would be a large step in the right direction.
The DWP is the contractor. There have been calls for financial penalties to be imposed on Atos but the DWP continues to ignore them. it would take somebody with a lot of mental and physical strength plus a deep purse to sue DWP.
The contract can be accessed at WhyWaitForever. Well worth looking at.
I will source out assistance from CAB @ the Royal Courts of Justice & set a premise for [perhaps] the 1st case against the DWP & ATOS. The smaller CAB outlet’s are really not that equipped to deal with the complicated higher laws.
My frustration (aside from medical issues): “Mrs A. attended with her son as her interpreter”….. I [DO NOT HAVE A SON], & for the record my 1st language is ENGLISH as I was born in this ‘once’ great country. I actually dropped to the floor in tears, & this being the 1st page of a 5 page tissue of LIES. I ‘phoned the GMC & demanded this ‘Dr’s’ name which was relayed via a letter from the GMC. I do not have ample space here to relay the complete farce of my ‘assessment’ – but, I had emailed details of my attire to my other email address & printed off sealing same in an envelope taking with me. I took a picture of myself (mobile,date/time) prior to entering the building. Good thinking! as the ‘quack’ lied & said “she had no difficulty unbuttoning her coat”. I wore a sweatshirt…
The untrained 1 banged the desk when I showed the envelope containing the email, the force impacting his computer raising about a foot in the air with him bellowing: “show me, show me or I’m stopping right now. Another staff member entered & I gave over the un-opened envelope, he opened & read contents’ as to my attire, plimsoles, pull-up trousers & my lipstick. Cutting to the chase, I took 4 5mg Diazepam along with Dihydrocodeine 30mg after I dropped to my floor in shock viewing the 1st page of the ‘rejection’. That ‘Dr’ ignored letters from Consultants based @ the Pain Clinic I am currently attending, concentrating on my performing an EYE TEST!!! Then, “she refused to bend down” – then, “she had no difficulty bending”. I actually tried to be pleasant interjecting how I had lived in NIGERIA & enquired as to BENDEL STATE as I detected his speech ‘slang’. OMG! he went off again with me thinking: ‘this guy is going to need a Doctor as he was trembling with anger (or p’haps the dosh he was losing as I was time wasting). I eventually contacted ATOS which is a waste of time for ATOS will lay blame on the decison maker who in return base their decison on info collected from the ‘Doctor’. I ‘phoned the DWP & asked to pass a message to same ‘Doctor’ – should he own his house he should now consider errecting a for SALE sign as I am intending to sue him for my distress. I was initally offered a car via DLA – gone. I am now reduced to £71.40pw (ESA) & after a loan deduction expected to survive on £55pw paid fortnightly. I have lost weight, my hair falling out & my only pleasure is this lap top given as a B’day gift. I am setting a premise for premeditated murder as that is the truth because I [know] I will freeze in the harsh winter approaching. Please forgive me if I am sounding selfish, I am not, & I am aware there are more unfortunate people out there in worse situations – I give thanks for my limbs. But, this farce/scam has to be stopped with lessons learned & silly as I may sound re ‘suing’ the ‘Doctor’ then so be it – nothing ventured nothing gained…
Energy bills rising, & people in dire situations fighting, form filling, ‘phoning is ‘work’ in itself so, FIGHT ON & DO NOT GIVE UP.
Meanwhile sign the WoW petition. Please.
Cannot understand why you are making this man out to be a martyr?
He joined ATOS in 2010 and is responsible for probably hundreds of ruined lives.
Ask yourselves “Why did it take this long to realise what he was doing was wrong”.
There is only one answer, MONEY!!!!
I realise that now he is supporting our cause……………..
Maybe his two minutes of fame in the paper and his new book are the driving force and not, you as he would like you to believe.
Fairy tales are for the kids, as for me, i’m always sceptical, especially with the amount of time it took for him to become ” a reformed character”
PAUL MALPAS made several freedom of information requests to the DWP.
On one of his requests, he asked if a GP could issue a “STATEMENT OF FITNESS FOR WORK”.
This is the DWP’s response;
In the decision dated 2 July 2013 (ref VTR2728/13), it was confirmed that General
Practitioners are not trained to make an assessment on a person’s capability for work
according to legislation.
Furthermore the DWP state;
In the decision dated 2 July 2013 (ref VTR2728/13) it was confirmed that GPs are able to
provide “simple fitness for work advice to aid their patient’s recovery and help them return to
I am making reference to this because when the DWP stopped my Incapacity benefit due to a biased ATOS examination, i was informed that to carry on getting payments i had to tender a statement of fitness for work from my GP.
Twice i have cited the freedom of information reply and they are choosing to ignore it………..
I think the DWP are deliberately trying to keep the issue under wraps. Ask yourself why they choose to ignore their own documentation?
Something sinister is being played out………
That is exactly what happened to me before I won my appeal.
A demanding letter for a sick line would arrive every time my GP’s line was about to run out of date.
The letter would arrive on a Friday or Saturday saying that if they did not receive the sick line by Tuesday they would stop my payment.
This caused quite a bit of stress as I’m sure everyone knows it not very easy to get a GP’s appointment at short notice nowadays. It meant I had to phone the practice on Monday, get an appointment that day then go to the Post Office and sent it first class. (Conveniently they would sent an envelope to send the sick line back, but it would be 2nd class paid!)
The statement “General Practitioners are not trained to make an assessment on a person’s capability for work
according to legislation.” is quite extraordinary but could it be an underhand way of trying to get the Atos ‘disability certificate’ legitimised by insisting GP’s must obtain the ‘qualification’.
It would be interesting to know in what way the DWP think that Atos employees are trained to make an assessment on someone’s capability for work.
As their dinky town certificate/qualification is not recognised anywhere except by Atos the company that is responsible for doing the WCA’s
You would think there would be more of an outcry by GP’s because Atos & the DWP are criticizing them unfairly and disparaging their professional qualifications.
To me the problem is the way they split being ill and disabled and the capability to work as two separate things when quite clearly it is not.
I have twice been to an ATOS assessment, the first time taking them to a tribunal and actually coming out better than I was before the assessment financially, the second time, just six mnths ago, from which I received no notification and am currently awaiting my second ATOS assessment this year, I have a serious heart problem which causes me to collapse with no warning, staying unconscious for up to 30 mins at a time, why this is my cardiologist cannot find out, I also have arthiritis all down my right side following a car accident 8 yrs ago, and yet the DWP expect a miracle overnight cure and that I will suddenly become capable for work, which as both my tribunal doctor and the last ATOS official has stated simply is not going to happen, and have also stated that the stress and worry of these continuous assessments cause only makes my condition worse. When oh when are they going to realise specialist diagnosis is so much more superior than these “assessors” opinions and stop wasting time and money hounding the genuinely ill and disabled people.
August 26, 2013 at 8:58 am
All this talk about submitting substantial evidence to the DWP in regard to a claim is “ONE BIG PISSTAKE”…….
The DWP already hold all information about your health history in their archives……….
I requested that the DWP send me all the information they held on me. Anyone can request this, it costs you nothing but it costs them a lot of time and effort to collate it all…………
Drop them a line, recorded delivery of course, and ask for your files. They must provide them by law!!!
My files came in three huge envelopes. The paperwork was seven inches high…………
They contained every sick note and visit to my doctor, every questionnaire i had ever filled in as a result of my benefits and all relevant scoring of my rights to have the benefits….
In other words, they are sending you on a “WILD GOOSE CHASE” to furnish them with information that is already at their disposal.
“ANOTHER BIG CON TRICK”………………..
I asked, via the freedom of information act, if any of the staff, at whatever level of the DWP, received PRIVATE HEALTH CARE.
Strangely, they first said the information was not held!
They then retracted this statement and said that no one at the DWP received PRIVATE HEALTH CARE.
Upon inspecting the pages on the request, it seems they have removed their answers completely.
,,,,,,,,,,,another cracker from this totally honest department!
Controlled killing, or murder by decree, whatever you wish to call it, was a master stroke swiftly executed by the DWP.
It left thousands dead and millions in a state of anxiety, poverty and trauma in its wake.
Sadly, the truth of the matter will be hurriedly buried as the lawlords and cabinet ministers are briefed on the pending disclosure of, probably the worst atrocity, since the second world war………..
As eyes focus on the barbarity of the acts against the disabled, poor and most vulnerable in society, the DWP try to distance themselves from the rising death toll.
Announcing that they will not gathering statistics of peoples lives claimed by their heinous policies is just one way of trying to escape the onslaught of claims that will be heading their way soon.
“We were only following orders”, has worn rather thin over the years, culpable homicide springs firmly to mind……
Whatever way you look at it, murder is murder, especially when premeditated to bring down welfare costs.
The qualifications of an ATOS HCP are follows;
1/ They had no friends at school and probably dont have any now.
2/ They did not excel at their job in the first instance.
3/ People in the same profession saw them as being inferior.
4/ Probably came from working class backgrounds with minimum cash flow.
5/ Must possess a hatred of human beings who are disabled.
6/ Lust for money must outweigh the morality of what they are doing.
7/ Were probably bullied as children and see the job as revenge for all the hatred they received themselves.
8/ Have no remorse or feeling for the incredible pain and suffering that they cause on a daily basis.
9/ Can switch off to the suicides that are regularly reported.
10/ Usually capable of keeping their job a secret and working in other areas where their identity is not known.
11/ Have undergone basic training that is tantamount to kiddies homework.
12/ Feel confident that the work they do will never come back to haunt them.
13/ Must be confident in lying,cheating and stealing from the most disadvantaged in our broken society.
When a report is amended the original report should also be attached to the new report so the claimant and a tribunal can see the report is amended, Atos should not be allowed to hide behind covertly amended reports
6. Mr Reynolds made an appeal on the approved form, on the grounds that he disagrees with comments made in the medical report and with the findings of the HCP.
He has difficulties with walking, standing and sitting, bending and kneeling, reaching, manual dexterity, hearing, continence and misinterpreting communication.
I advise that a return to work could be considered within 3 months.
Reason for opinion given
The available evidence suggests significant functional impairment is unlikely.
25 October 1997
The Adjudicating Medical Officers Decision
The Adjudicating Medical Authority decided that,
. the industrial accident on 8 12 92 has caused you a loss of faculty
. the loss of faculty is pain and reduced movements of the lumbar spine
. you are 20% disabled from 1 10 97 for life because of the loss of faculty. By loss of faculty we mean some loss of power or function to an organ of your body.
The Adjudicating Medical Authority’s assessment of your disability is a final assessment.
20 9 95
You do not have to send any more medical certificates from your doctor. Medical certificates are also called sick notes.
………..after ATOS assessment by Emma Brodrick HCP,
No points awarded.
17 12 2012
I need to reiterate to you that unfortunately without a medical certificate i cannot issue payments of employment and support allowance.
24 07 2013
Disability Living Allowance terminated.
THEREFORE THE DWPs NEW DEFINITION OF A LIFETIME AWARD IS EXACTLY AS STATED,
THEY FIRST REMOVE ALL YOUR BENEFITS USING, “NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE”, BOGUS MEDICAL REPORTS.
AFTER A YEAR OF STRESS, ANXIETY AND POVERTY, YOU THEN DECIDE, ENOUGHS ENOUGH, AND TOP YOURSELF!
WHICH IN TURN FORCES THE DWP TO MAKE STATEMENTS INDICATING THEY HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE ABHORRENT DEATH TOLLS OF THE WELFARE REFORMS, WHICH NEATLY FITS IN WITH TRYING TO ENABLE THIS;
Draft Deregulation Bill: Government moves to shut down judicial supervision and criticism of DWP-Atos decision making by abolition of duty by Tribunals’ President to publish annual report
In 2011, I was awarded zero points on WCA by a lady Eastern European HCP, who though extremely polite, was obviously challenged by her ability to communicate in English effectively. The tribunal subsequently overturned her Zero points, and awarded me 15 points, and another WCP in 12 months time.
In May 2012, I was awarded the full 15 points by another male HCP whose accent sounded very similar to the HCP of 2011.
I think this was mainly because he kept me waiting for more than two hours beyond my allotted time in the waiting room, and he possibly thought I would be less likely to complain if I had won the day. This gentleman also recommended re-assessment in 12 months.
In May 2013, I attended the WCA as demanded, but by this time I have moved up North, and taken up residence in Scotland. Despite a cordial interview and examination, I was awarded ZERO points by the HCP, and had no alternative but to write a letter challenging every one of the points made in her 39 page report, the majority of which was simply a huge ‘cut and paste’ exercise. Apparently I am almost 100%v “Normal” with Zero points, and can return to work in 3 months. She disregarded everything I had said and also minimalised her own diagnostic evidence of my obvious limitations.
I cannot get better year after year because my conditions are progressive, and can only detiorate.
The amazing DWP appear to have succeeded in their mission to “Boldly go where no-one has gone before” and outdone the admirable Mr. Scott, who said “Ye canny change the Laws of Physics, Jim”.
Looking back on it, the whole farcical exercise of the May 2013 WCA was nothing but an attempted “whitewash”, even to the point of contradicting their own ATOS HCP’s findings from the previous years of 2011 and 2012.
I am convinced that this HCP had been previously briefed to provide suitable evidence in the form of the required report to support the aims of the DWP, i.e. to find everybody capable of work.
The fifty or sixty quid a week they will save per person in should put the Balance of Payments right don’t you think? ( the DWP pay me just £57 per week, and my only other benefits are Housing and Council Tax benefit, – or whatever they have re-named it to now to confuse us even further ).
Would it not be cheaper in the long run for the Government to just repeal the Act which established the way for the set up of the Welfare State in 1946, and abolish the payouts for everyone in all circumstances? Then they could give another £800bn to the banks, ATOS and their influential mates.
Perhaps that would just be going just a little bit too far for this Government as it seeks re-election, asking the populace to forget the last four years of mayhem and misdirection in the name of austerity, and let them have another mandate to screw the country up once and for all.
They may possibly risk eventual comparison with several other totalitarian States who brought misery to millions in the last century simply because they made the mistake of thinking that they were “In Government”,- and therefore their power was unassailable. History has much to teach us, but only if we listen.
I have voted Tory all my life, and even served as a Tory Councillor, but no more support from me for the present mob.
Sorry David and Nick.
As we say in Lancashire, “you’ve pissed on your chips!”