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Friday, 4 November 2011

Addendum to Atos Complaint

Re:  Complaint - Update

Dear Ms Smith

My main purpose for writing is in connection with my WCA on__________.  Since raising a complaint on 8th October having seen the ESA85, I have been given further information by the DWP, so I have had to revisit the ESA85 from a slightly different perspective.  I do not think it alters the basis of my complaint and should not delay progress, but it raises questions over trickery and deceit on which I would like your comments and/or help – some of the points are specific to my WCA, some are more general and I have made them as clear as possible so you can answer precisely.  Your response could add to the appeal  and complaint I have already raised with DWP, based on where it transpires  responsibilities for certain issues lie, which is the main issue I am trying to resolve.

a)      The declared intention of a WCA is to concentrate on what a claimant can do rather than can’t do.  Why then do you use negative, imprecise rather than positive phraseology?  For example:

ESA 85
Positive Alternative
“Observed behaviour did not indicate a significant difficult”
Observed behaviour indicates that XXXXX can comfortably cope with . . . . . . .
“Significant disability regarding mental function is unlikely”
XXXXX has no disability regarding mental functions
“He has no upper limb problems which would prevent him propelling a wheelchair.”
XXXXX can comfortably propel a wheelchair


Leaving an element of uncertainty (likely/unlikely) you place a decision maker who is not medically trained in the impossible position of having to make a judgement without any quantification or the benefit of have the claimant in front of them to test the possibilities.

b)      My upper body capability in relation to self-propelling a wheelchair has become particularly significant as it forms the main element in the DWP decision. I had noticed Ms Jones’s comments on the ESA85 and had wondered what prompted them, but did not give it a second thought.

Firstly, in the WCA there was no discussion at all about my upper body strength.  The only “data” Ms Jones therefore had was her observations which were no more extensive that seeing me stand and sit plus a brief conversation about my ability to make a cup of coffee.  If Ms Jones needed information that would have a material bearing on my assessment, she should have asked more questions, but she did not.  How on earth could she accurately assess something she neither discussed nor examined?

Secondly, there was no discussion about my ability to self-propel a wheelchair.  There was no need for there to be (I thought), as none of the medical team associated with my condition over the past 2 years has ever suggested that one would in any way be in my interests – in fact the orthopaedic surgeon has said exactly the opposite.  The fact that I have a long history of arthritis in the hands in my family and might have developed symptoms myself and quite recently have suffered carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands did not of course come up, so Ms Jones’s assertion is hardly based on an intention on her part to ensure she captures all relevant information.

Thirdly as you are well aware, there is a very specific meaning behind “none of the above apply” for Activity 1 –   i.e. that I can self-propel a wheelchair at least 200m.  Where in Ms Jones’s report has she recorded evidence that this could be the case, again in the absence of any discussion?

Fourthly, again as you will be well aware, DWP takes the view that if a HCP summarises Activity 1 as Ms Jones did, my mobility will be judged as if in a wheelchair even though I do not have one and nobody has ever suggested I should have one.  What she has therefore indicated is that she believes my capability to work is enhanced by being in a wheelchair over not being in a wheelchair.  Do you honestly believe that she has the experience and authority to draw such a conclusion without a much more extensive assessment and much broader consultation?   I wonder how many people confined to a wheelchair given the choice to relinquish it would agree?
Please do not try to split hairs over precisely who has responsibility for which parts of this process.  Atos works very closely with DWP and each of you knows exactly what influence you have on the other.  There can therefore be no doubt that Ms Jones knew precisely what the consequences of her recommendation would be.  Consigning someone to a wheelchair for the first time is literally life changing, so do you think that Ms Jones had any duty of care at all to discuss the matter with me in relation to professional best-practice and moral responsibility?
c)       Finally, there is the question of logic and consistency.  Surely if Ms Jones took the view that my mobility would improve in a wheelchair, she would have to accept that my ability to negotiate steps disappears?

As this all stands, she and therefore Atos looks deceitful and dishonest.

There are just a few things finally that I would like to clear up:

a)      Your customer charter promises to treat all claimants fairly and equally.  Why then have you refused to use email?  I am of course assuming that you have not applied this decision across all of the complaints you have.  For the record, I would specifically ask you to reinstate it.

b)      In a WCA, is your overriding priority the physical and mental well-being of the claimant? If not, what is it?

c)       Do you feel that honesty and openness with claimants is vital in establishing the level of trust and confidence in Atos that is a prerequisite to ensuring we do not suffer any undue stress?

If you think that any of these question or for that matter any of my previous questions are unreasonable or irrelevant please do say – I am sure we can work something out.  Likewise, if you feel any of my assumptions (explicit or implicit) are wrong please do tell me. 

Remember what the Government told us over their plan to implement ID cards – if you have nothing to hide; you have nothing to worry about.


Yours sincerely

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