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3 December 2009

Doctor with moneyBenefits and Work has obtained a copy of a confidential letter which reveals exactly how much Atos medical assessors receive in taxpayers’ cash for carrying out different types of benefits medicals.   Astonishingly, some may at times be on a higher rate of pay than the prime minister.

The confidential letter was sent out to Atos medical assessors after a decision to award them a 3% increase in pay from 1st October 2009.  It sets out the new rates for carrying out disability living allowance, employment and support allowance, incapacity benefit and other medicals, either at a medical examination centre or as a domiciliary visit.

MEDICAL TYPE            AT CENTRE     HOME


DLA/AA                         £51.37            £77.33
DLA Fast track              £51.37            £89.69
Incapacity benefit        £35.16            £60.63
ESA (LCWRA/LCW)       £40.31            £65.77
ESA (WFHRA)                £26.37           £26.37
Industrial injuries         £30.36           £55.82

The letter reveals that the cost of paying for a medical plus a work-focused health-related assessment for ESA is £66.68 compared to £35.16 for an incapacity benefit medical.  This represents a massive increase of 188% for assessing claimants on ESA as opposed to incapacity benefit.

One of the astonishing things about these figures is the extraordinarily high amount that assessors are paid to carry out work-focused health-related activity assessments (WFHRA).

These reports are passed on to private sector personal advisers.  They are intended to help them draw up a return-to-work action plan with claimants placed in the work-related activity group of ESA.   The assessment is supposed to be carried out by the same health professional immediately after the ESA medical.

A work capability assessment medical report for ESA is, on average, 21 pages long and may take over an hour to carry out using LIMA software.  The WFHRAs we have seen are just 4 pages long – including front cover – and can take as little as 11 minutes to carry out using the same software.  Yet doctors are paid only 35% less for carrying out an assessment that can take around 85% less time to create. 

What is more, WFHRAs are frequently not being carried out at the same time as the ESA medical.  Instead, claimants are being called back at a later date for a ‘second medical’. If an assessor was carrying out nothing but WFHRAs, they could well be earning over £130 an hour.  This is the equivalent of around £5,000 a week – Gordon Brown, on the other hand, earns less than £4,000 a week.

Even, an assessor carrying out standard ESA medicals followed by WFHRAs could expect to conduct, at the very least, six such assessments a day and earn in excess of £100,000.  Many may be earning considerably more by  working longer hours.

This, however, is only what Atos pays the health professional who carries out the assessment.  The payment to Atos by the DWP may be double this amount – although, because the DWP refuse to tell taxpayers how their money is spent, we can’t be certain what the real cost is.

What we can be certain of, is that many taxpayers will be astonished and alarmed at the generosity of the DWP when it comes to handing out cash to its private sector partners, as opposed to sick and disabled citizens.

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