From the TUC

Who gives Atos?

05 Nov 2010, By

Well we know this ConDem government doesn’t nor, it seems, does the company, Atos Origin UK, that the ConDems have contracted to assess people applying for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Derbyshire TUC Unemployed Workers Centres (DUWC) have just published their 2010 Annual Report which includes the following three case studies which seem to gainsay Atos’s protestations that they are not paid by results – getting people off ESA and the benefits budget down. But as the following stories show they get it wrong while causing pain, worry and grief to those they deny ESA.

TUC Unemployed Workers Centres are doing a brilliant job helping the unemployed, low paid and vulnerable workers. To find out more about the work of the centres and how you and your trade union can support or get involved with your local centre go to 

If you have more such Atos stories please send them to me at the TUC marking the envelope ‘Atos Stories’

Here are  John Watkins, Gary Hollingworth and Sue Hutchings stories.

John Watkins was working as a lorry driver but developed acute tennis elbow through repetitive driving so that by January 2009 his right arm movement was severely restricted. As a result he had to stop work because he could no longer drive. John is right handed and after an operation in April 2009 had his whole right arm from his shoulder to his fingers put in a cast. John was called to an assessment where the medical found him fit for work. He did not score any points (a person needs 15 points to be judged incapable of work). John’s consultant had advised him not to use his arm, yet the Atos Origin Ltd medical said he was capable of using both arms to lift bulky objects. At a tribunal the decision was overturned and it was accepted that John could not lift using both arms or use a pen effectively. He was then entitled to the extra £25.50 per week, which was then backdated. John will need further surgery in December. He is incensed at his treatment and says: “I encourage people not to be put off pursuing their claim. They should seek advice and appeal if they feel that they have been unjustly treated, as I undoubtedly was.

Sue Hutchings: Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2009. She had an operation to remove the lump on 14 August but unfortunately the surgery scar became infected. At a follow up appointment, Sue was told the cancer had spread beyond the original excision and she would have to have more tissue taken. She was prescribed antibiotics for the infection through to the end of September. During this time, she received and completed her ESA50 form, stating that she had breast cancer and was undergoing surgical treatment. On 7 October she had a pre-op appointment and further surgery was booked for the following week. Sue had her ESA medical with Atos Origin Ltd on 8 October and told them she was still recovering from surgery and had further surgery booked for 12 October. Sue’s GP had provided her with a sick note and all the supporting medical evidence requested by the DWP. Sue offered to show this medical evidence and her scar, but the Atos Origin Ltd nurse refused to look. Sue had her surgery and thought everything had gone well. At a follow up appointment on 4 November with her consultant Sue was told the cancer had spread again and she would need a full mastectomy. Despite this, upon receiving the report back from Atos Origin Ltd the DWP decision maker decided that Sue “could not be treated as having limited capability for work”. Sue received her ‘0 points’ letter on 12 November 2009. She appealed and a revision of the decision was carried out. She won on the grounds that exceptional circumstances regulations should have been applied. Sue is now in remission.

Garry Hollingworth of Langwith worked for the Royal Mail as a postman. He was off work for ten months with a serious heart condition. Royal Mail employed Atos to carry out a medical assessment on Garry. They concluded that ‘His mobility is restricted up to a few minutes by breathlessness, angina and leg pains’. They went on to say ‘Mr Hollingworth remains unfit for work in any capacity and I doubt he will be able to work again. There is no foreseeable return date and no adjustments that would facilitate his return at this stage’.

The Atos report stated that not only is he permanently incapable of carrying out the duties of his present post but also working for any other employer. They concluded that he would meet the criteria for medical retirement.

Weeks later, Mr Hollingworth had to attend a Work Capability Assessment, a requirement when claiming the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have a multi million pound contract with Atos Origin to carry out work capability assessments with those claiming ESA.

Imagine Garry’s surprise when he was sent a letter by Atos telling him he did not have a limited capability for work. He had received 0 points (15 are required to claim the benefit) which means he would have to claim Job seeker’s allowance which is £65.45 as opposed to £96.85 on ESA. Mr Hollingworth appealed the decision and was then given 6 points. The Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres (DUWCs) helped him put in a new claim as his condition had worsened. Garry has had a fresh medical via Atos and has now been given 9 points. He will appeal the decision again.

The DUWCs have two more Royal Mail workers and one NHS employee who have all faced medical retirement at the hands of Atos only to be given 0 points when trying to claim the benefit to which they are entitled. One of these workers is still awaiting her appeal.

4 Responses to Who gives Atos?

  1. Miss Ben E Fit
    Nov 5th 2010, 2:59 pm

    Who gives Atos? Good title.

    You do not seem to be aware of the magical powers of ATOS.
    ATOS and DWP the only people since Jesus Christ to make the lame and crippled walk.

    Water into wine only happens at tory conterence

  2. ali
    Nov 19th 2010, 1:51 pm

    I have unctrolled blood pressure uncontrolled type 2 diabetese , Angina , sciatica and stress and anxiety I am on highest dose medications but scored 0 points on ESA assesmant. 6 months before on same assessment was found unfit for any work

  3. Sue E Sidle
    Jan 3rd 2011, 7:17 am

    Great title!! The disturbing £500m Atos/DWP ‘assessment’ contract, needs no analysing as to a clearly blatant contradiction of any spending cuts in this given area, then the (many) tribunals topping £???, to which a high percentage result favouring the (obviously unable) claimant over Atos. Im a timebomb, courtesy of my, ‘now ex’ GP (long term, high dose, psychotropic medication error, despite having the adverse reactions, i am addicted thus causing both mental and physical dysfunctions, that ive spent years self treating due to the moronic Dr also refusing referal to specialists, notably ‘now’ its obvious as to why), so as my brain is being eaten at, quitting would result in, arrested, sectioned or dead. So i am being weaned cautiously off, (the withdrawal is a severity on a continuum, some cases cannot fully quit as the painstaking actuality is too much, so far ive taken 20months to get to 60mg from 300mg) But! Atos’ ‘descriptors’ i am able to do, the very sickening reality is the Atos non Dr, added that im an addict to her report, no mentioning by way of prescriptive!! Even ignoring the pain im in, The Tribunal had no care of the fact my mental state in situations of many, has already proven unsafe to others, yet is not a consequence of concern? I was told Quote ‘you can do the descriptors thats all we merit a claim for’. Atos is costing millions more than any claimants and judges forcing evidently known to be potentially psychotic into stressful circumstances, im not violent by nature, yet once im adrenalically ‘hit’ with byproducts caused via initial 5ht release im then drowning my brain in excesses of serotonin, i become detatched, how is the actuality of my situation non problematic for even that of being legal? Sorry im ranting, we are all in the same boat, i feel for us all, its a sickening truth that they know we cannot work nor actually be employable if they drove us to any damn interview themselves.

  4. Lucinda Robertson
    Jan 4th 2011, 1:54 am

    I have various birth defects which have so far resulted in my stomach being removed, having a spinal disc removed due to bone detgeneration in my spine and I also have a cyst (syringomyelia) in my spinal cord which affects my feeling and walking. I went for an ATOS assessment and was awarded no points. After having my stomach removed I go to the toilet 30 to 40 times a day, some days my coordination is so bad due to the cyst that I cannot see, however, the eminent Doctor who did my assessment with his two hearing aids and no bottom set of teeth decided that I am fine. Amazing really. I am now on JSA which is quite difficult as every time I have to go into hospital (quite often) I have to switch to ESA. No matter how much the people on the end of the phone (glasgow) try to tell me that I should be on ESA and not signing on, I delight in refusing. I would love to be able to hold down a full time job, I could give so much more to my son. The so called Dr who assessed me is a bastard, who didn’t understand that I get DLA for a reason! There is no way to make these people understand. I am lucky I have 5 consultants who care. I hope others have a better story.