6 January 2009
Atos Healthcare is recruiting nurses around the country to carry out benefits medicals in a move which will boost the multinational’s profits but may also help unsuccessful claimants win appeals.
Atos is currently recruiting registered nurses in the following areas:
The nurses will carry out medicals relating to incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance. They will also undertake disability living allowance and attendance allowance medicals where these take place at a medical examination centre rather than in the claimant’s own home.
Atos won the concession to allow it to use nurses as well as doctors when it renegotiated its contract with the DWP several years ago. From the multinational’s point of view this is a big advantage: nurses are cheaper and more readily available than fully qualified doctors. This means lower recruitment and wages costs and enhanced profits for the company and its shareholders.
Because the nurses only carry out medicals using the very simple multiple choice questions which form the basis of Atos’ LiMA computer software, their medical reports are indistinguishable from reports created by doctors using the same software.
However, there is one possible advantage to claimant’s in the increasing prevalence of reports created by nurses. Tribunals tend to take a hierarchical view of medical evidence: a consultant’s report generally carries more weight than a GP’s report and a GP’s more weight than a nurse’s. However, tribunals will also take into account such issues as whether the nurse is a specialist in a field such as inflammatory bowel disease or mental health.
But Atos are not recruiting specialist nurses. So, if you are refused a benefit on the basis of an Atos medical, it’s vital that you get a copy of the medical report and see who created it. If it was a nurse and you can get supporting medical evidence from a GP or consultant then make sure you point out to the tribunal the contrasing professional standing of the two health professionals.
The DWP will probably argue that their report was produced by a specialist ‘disability analyst’. However, such Atos ‘specialists’ may have only had one or two day’s training in disability analysis. This is a point worth making in any submission to a tribunal.
Benefits and Work would be very interested to hear from any registered nurse who would be willing to go through the initial stages of the application process for one of the Atos posts.