Two recent television programmes made public what doctors and patients already know: fitness to work assessments being conducted in the UK by the private firm Atos are unfit for purpose and damaging. Why are doctors involved in this farce, asks Margaret McCartney GP in the BMJ (British Medical Journal):
…Why are doctors involved in such a farce? Atos has been allowed to take over the assessment of the most vulnerable people in society without proper scrutiny. The many successful appeals, which cost the taxpayer £50m a year to administer, shows the system’s failure, and we do not know how many others do not appeal. Why are we not acting on the human cost of stress and anxiety caused by the assessments?
… The question of how we got ourselves into this mess is one thing. How we get ourselves out is another. Fear of losing their jobs, and the confidentiality agreements, means that few Atos Healthcare staff speak out. Bick was told, by a doctor who assessed a patient he had never met, to alter his examination findings. This should be intolerable. The BMA’s conference of local medical committees in March passed a motion saying that the work capability assessment was unfit for purpose.
The evidence for the processes that Atos uses needs immediate public scrutiny, and the harms of this system must be examined urgently. We should support and protect health professionals who work for Atos and want to speak out. We have allowed medicine to be made responsible for a dreadful process. We need to work together to make it clear that it cannot be.
Read the full article: The disturbing truth about disability assessments