ESA & Atos – the BBC investigates…

“Seriously ill patients told to work”

A BBC investigation has heard claims of seriously ill patients being told they are fit enough to work and denied benefit payments.

Two former doctors for the private healthcare company Atos, which carries out the medical assessments have expressed concerns that the checks are being done too quickly and that the system is biased towards declaring people fit for work.

So begins this article on the BBC News website.

It should come as no surprise to anybody, of course, as it’s quite clear that ESA – which, in the way it’s implemented, doesn’t even comply with its own legislation – is aimed primarily at getting people off disability benefits and onto Job Seekers’ Allowance which, of course pays a lot less. Whether they are fit to work quite clearly is of no consequence.

The system is so deeply flawed that currently around 44,000 cases are awaiting appeal. That’s an insane figure.

BBC TV current affairs, I learned from the Benefits & Work e-mailshot, today, is currently looking into the problems of claiming ESA, particularly with reference to the Atos-run medical assessments, so if you have had problems with the ESA medical examination, either with its inadequacy or because it’s just plain wrong, then do feel free to contact the BBC.

For example, I was told by the father of one seriously ill woman that the Atos doctor reported that she had a stoma when, in fact, she does not, which is staggeringly incompetent; so incompetent, in fact, that his continued employment beggars belief** (it should come as no surprise that she was pronounced fit for work, despite having, among much else, minimal cognitive abilities). This case, too, is subject to appeal.

**I’m forced to wonder just how dangerous this obvious quack would be if he had a proper job.

The person you need to get in touch with, as soon as possible, is Liam McDougall, on 0141 422 7559 or email him at

12 thoughts on “ESA & Atos – the BBC investigates…

  1. The programme on the TV tonight at 11pm, is on Scottish TV, but can be accessed for those on Digital TV – Sky is 971, sorry dont know the other channel numbers.

    • Hi Jenny,

      Yep, Benefits and Work published the info this morning – I meant to post about it but, too much to do, not enough day. I believe it’s also on Freeview. Like you I don’t know the numbers, but it shouldn’t be hard to track down.

      It remains to be seen, though, if BBC Scotland has more cojones than the southern operation – will they be willing to antagonise the government while the DG has spent so much time sucking up to them, even before the election?

      The Atos operation really has to go, though – their doctors, who are probably so crap they couldn’t get a job in the real world, work to a check list – presumably because they don’t have the necessary experience. When I had my DLA medical, back in ’86, I got a retired GP who knew exactly what he was doing. He sure as hell didn’t need a checklist – the medical was so rigorous it put me in bed for a week. Got my money, though. Not fun, but sooner that than some loser whose only skill is the ability to check the right box – and by all accounts, they can’t even manage that half the time.


  2. Tell me about it. The ATOS doctor made so many mistakes and contradictions in my medical report that I thought he’d written up a day’s worth of patients in one session so we could all share it.


  3. I have been totally traumatised by ESA and Atos.
    I have chronic bipolar disorder and my doctors have forbidden me to work as I must avoid any kind of stress or adrenaline to avoid a manic episode, while they search for effective treatment.
    My dealings with ESA and Atos has been way more stressful than any job I have undertaken.
    The incompetence is beyond belief. I have one Atos assesment and have now been told I must attend another one. I have been without money now for 5 weeks. How do they expect me to get there?
    Besides this I must attend “Pathways to Work” when I am not allowed to work? Again, without money how am I supposed to get there?
    How am I supposed to continually call 0845 numbers when I have no money?
    I am about to have to fill in the ESA form for the third time as they keep losing my case.
    My support workers have made over 40 calls lasting over five hours to be continually palmed off to other departments. It always ends up with them stating it has gone to “clerical” and someone will ring me back, which never happens.
    Does anyone know if there is any legal recourse against these group of bandits?

    • In answer to your last question, Alex, I’ve suggested several times here that somebody with the money – who, perhaps, has a family member who’s been screwed by the DWP – should take them to court. It’s the only way it’s ever going to happen. And it needs to be someone with money, because getting legal aid these days is harder than ESA..

      How am I supposed to continually call 0845 numbers when I have no money?

      My local benefits office used to just give you the engaged tone when they were busy. Then some genius decided that they should stack up callers in a queue, playing them crap music for half an hour.

      I never phone anyone where money is concerned, by the way – everything is done in writing and, to be fair, in 25 years I’ve had very few benefit problems. Benefit offices have fax machines, and they’ll give you the number if asked. Windows XP has a fax applet, so if you’re using it you don’t even need a fax machine (though you do need a fax/data modem, already in machines that are a few years old, not so much in new ones), and a phone line connection. With Vista or 7, you’ll need a third-party fax app, and this works well


  4. Hi Ron,
    Thank you so much for answering me. Your page has been an incredible help. Thank you for the advice about mail and fax. Through you I have now found the name and address of the current Sec of State for DWP. Whom I shall write to personally and cc on every bit of correspondence with them.
    As for Court, what do you think about a class action suit?
    I may be broke right now thanks to DWP, but what I lack in finances I more than make up for in determination and quite a lot of legal knowledge even though it is from the States.
    The person I spoke to yesterday for a crisis loan was the most detestable, viscious person I have ever spoken to. In the end however, once I had requested a tape recording of the conversation and his name and department he became quite shaken! It was a wonderful thing.
    Thanks for this page and for letting me rant!

    • Hi Alex,

      I don’t think class action suits exist in British law, as they do in the US, where you can get thousands of people on the same case. Just one of the many freedoms the colonies have that we don’t.


  5. Major bummer. However I thought that it was a sweet coincidence that about an hour after I wrote to the Sec of State for DWP he announced sweeping changes in Benefits stating that they were “complicated”.
    Let’s keep on ranting!


  6. I got “assessed” by an unqualified possibly illegal immigrant (being investigated by GMc and UKBA) When I complained the perosn in question actually wrote a malicious libel accusing me of a crime and claiming he had to leave in fear of his life! DWP emails obtained under FOI Act proves ATOS and DWP knew he had an history of making accusations agsinst anyone who questioned his qualficiations (he did not even know the position of ulcers). I have documents from DWp stating they use discretionary powers to have unqualfied employees placed on the relevant registers, and as soon as it looks likely s “doctor” will be investigated, they use those same powers to have them removed in order to avoid action being taken.

    Claimants have legal redress under laws of tort, re breach of statutory duty, duty of care, libel, etc, against Atos and DWp as they are vicariously responsible for their employees actions.
    Beware ATOS lie in correspondence (have proof of that too, they claim bad doctors dismissed, when they have not been hoping you view that as the end of the matter)

  7. Keep the faith. I finally got paid, got back pay and even a raise! I hope I am now done with ATOS. Thankfully the lady I saw was extremely nice and obviously efficient.

    • Cheers. Alex.

      You know, in all this stuff I’ve written about DLA – and I don’t even want to think about the word counts – one thing I haven’t mentioned is that I had two medicals.

      For the first one, and it was Mobility Allowance in those days, also at home, a female Indian doctor arrived, in full ethnic garb, absolutely reeking of curry (not racist – fact), and the possessor of bugger all in the way of English. She asked no questions – just measured my right calf muscle, made a note, mumbled something barely comprehensible about there being nothing wrong with me, then pissed off.

      At the time I was at the end of a long period – decades – of strenuous activity. I was a cyclist, sea angler (way more strenuous than drowning maggots), rambler and backpacker. Not to mention the fact that I very often walked the four miles to work, and the same back, every day. Even going out in the evening, for a pint, was a 2 mile walk each way. Despite my respiratory problems, I was seriously fit (had I not been so fit, I honestly believe I’d be dead by now). So yes, a year after all that stopped, I still had bigger and stronger calf muscles than the average desk-jockey (which I had been for much of my working life).

      The second medical, by an English retired GP was so thorough it put me in bed for the rest of the week, but I got the maximum award, for life. Or until this government decides to fuck it up!

      Clearly, then, though there are shit doctors in the system now, it’s nothing new. Whether it was as bad then as it clearly is now, though, I seriously doubt.

      By the way, there is a feeling among DLA lifers that the award can’t be reviewed, the way fixed-term awards are. I remain unconvinced though, to be fair, the only people who have hassled me are the IB brigade, so maybe it’s true. If anyone out there can point me at the appropriated statute, I really would appreciate it. Incidentally, my IB entitlement is being reviewed next year, I was told in 2008. That’ll be a pretty good trick, and I look forward to it, as I’ll have been a pensioner for 2 years by then!

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