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15 March 2006

The General Medical Council (GMC) has gone back on an undertaking to investigate the scandal of examining doctors issuing 'oral warnings' to claimants caught taking notes during DLA medicals. (See: DLA doctors new scare tactics: claimants issued with secrecy warnings 15.02.06) The body which the GMC claims is responsible for regulating Nestor and Atos Origin Medical Services have also refused to look into the matter, claiming that both companies have immunity from medical regulation.

No name, no investigation
Back in February, Benefits and Work revealed that that doctors carrying out Disability Living Allowance (DLA ) examinations had been instructed to issue oral warnings to claimants, or anyone else present, who appears to be taking notes during an examination. The warning, which claims that there are legal reasons why what happens at the medical should not be publicised, is both intimidatory and legally untrue. We also revealed that although the practice had been approved by the Department for Work and Pensions, the General Medical Council had agreed to investigate.

However, when we provided the GMC with written evidence the response we received was that they would not investigate because the complaint was not being made against named doctors. Instead, the GMC insisted that it was the Healthcare Commission's responsibility to look into the activities of companies employing doctors on a private basis.

Exempt from scrutiny
However, when we contacted the Healthcare Commission they too refused to take any responsibility for the 176 full-time and1300 sessional doctors employed by Nestor Disability Analysis to conduct medical examinations for Atos Origin Medical Services. The Healthcare Commission claim that doctors carrying out work for government departments are specifically exempt from regulation under The Private and Voluntary Health Care (England) Regulations 2001 and Care Standards Act 2000.

Claimants, it seems, have no-one to turn to for protection other than Atos Origin Medical Services itself. We have made formal complaints to both the GMC and the Healthcare Commission about their refusal to act and have referred the matter to our MP. We have also made a formal complaint to Atos Origin Medical Services about the instruction to issue oral warnings.

Meanwhile, if anyone receives an oral warning and wishes to make a formal complaint to the GMC about a named doctor, they can be assured of the full support of Benefits and Work - we'll even write the letter and provide the stamp.