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19 June 2009

Two doctors who hit the headlines by claiming Atos was finding healthy claimants incapable of work are facing one of the largest costs orders ever, after having lost their unfair dismissal claim.

Dr James Branton and Dr Gail Young hit the headlines in May last year after taking Atos to an employment tribunal claiming they had been unfairly dismissed for wanting to stop more claimants from receiving benefits.

According to the doctors, claimants who complained about their medicals were much more likely to be found incapable of work than those who did not. When Atos failed to respond to their concerns Branton and Young wrote to Tony Blair and were suspended. 

Branton later wrote an article for the Daily Mail headlined ‘How doctors like me are punished for exposing sicknote scroungers, by a whistleblower’.  In it, he claimed that 70,000 people a year – about a fifth of all those examined by Atos - are wrongly found incapable of work and given benefits.

However, according to Jonathan Cohen of Littleton Chambers, who acted for Atos at the seven week long employment tribunal, the doctors were found in a 60 page judgement to have ‘repeatedly lied to the employment tribunal, to have made some of their allegations in bad-faith and to have made complaints, some of which were absurd’.

Atos have now applied for costs which if granted, would be one of the largest awards in the history of employment tribunals.

Members of Benefits and Work will be aware that the two doctors were the subject of a recent investigation by us relating to a company they set up to help people claim incapacity benefit and ESA. (See: Atos docs and burger man charge £65 a time for claim help). 

The national publicity given to the medical duo’s allegations last year helped to increase prejudice against sick and disabled claimants.  Few Benefits and Work members will shed a tear if those same allegations now leave the doctors so destitute they have to claim benefits themselves.

The costs hearing takes place in a fortnight – we’ll let readers know the result, if possible.  Many thanks to the Benefits and Work member who alerted us – in confidence - to this story.