Anxiety from service users as ATOS appears in mental health units

Jul 2013

Anxiety from service-users as Atos appears in mental health units

theweeksubA mental health trust has defended its decision to carry out disability assessments on behalf of the controversial outsourcing company Atos.

Mental health service-users at four sites run by Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust have been alarmed to see Atos-branded leaflets displayed in waiting areas.

The four sites – in Preston, Ormskirk, Lancaster and Blackburn – are being used by trust staff to assess disabled people for their eligibility for the new personal independence payment (PIP), on behalf of Atos.

Atos information leaflets are displayed in the waiting areas at all four of the sites.

Thousands of people with mental distress have been found unfairly fit for work following work capability assessments carried out by Atos, and many have had relapses, episodes of self-harm and suicide attempts, and have needed higher levels of medication and even hospitalisation in the lead-up to those assessments.

One trust service-user said she had had an “awful experience” during an Atos “fitness for work” assessment, and added: “Their presence in the building increases my anxiety and isn’t helping my mental health.

“The hospital is meant to be a place of safety and a place to improve my stability and mental health. This is not the case at this time.”

Mark Hindle, the trust’s chief operating officer, said: “As a trust, we feel that we are best placed to provide these assessments as we have an in-depth understanding of the population and issues around health inequalities across the county.

“We also have the expert knowledge of both physical and mental health illnesses and the impact these can have on a person’s day-to-day living.”

He added: “The trust’s core values will ensure that people attending for an assessment will be treated with compassion, dignity and respect and involved in the assessment; as they normally would be in clinical practice.”


No review board into early deaths of patients with learning disabilities

No review board into early deaths of patients with learning disabilities

Ministers refuse to implement inquiry recommendation for a national body to investigate 1,200 premature deaths in the NHS

People with learning disabilities at the Tower Drive Daycare Centre in Milton Keynes

People with learning disabilities at the Tower Drive Daycare Centre in Milton Keynes. An inquiry found 1,200 people with a learning disability die early a year because of poor care in the NHS Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Ministers have refused to create a national body to investigate the 1,200 premature deaths a year of patients with learning disabilities in the NHS – a key recommendation of a three-year confidential inquiry – drawing fire from campaigners and the government’s own researchers.


The confidential inquiry, set up at the end of the last Labour government, found that patients with a learning disability experience delays in diagnosis, delays in treatment, lack of basic care and poor communication by doctors and nurses.


Carried out by Bristol University academics and funded by the Department of Health, the inquiry “highlighted the unacceptable situation in which people with learning disabilities die, on average, 16 years sooner than people without learning disabilities”. Almost two-fifths – 37% – of deaths of people with a learning disability were due to them not getting the right care.


The inquiry team had asked the government to set up a national review board on the deaths of people with learning disabilities, and to examine a random selection of deaths as well as those of people who die young or who die unexpectedly.


However, in their response to the inquiry, ministers have refused to create such a body, arguing that it needed to weigh up the costs and benefits of the agency.


Instead the government has said it will give “greater voice” to people with learning disabilities and support the spread of personal budgets so patients could purchase better care.


This drew an angy response from campaigners, who said the death toll for patients with learning disabilities was comparable to that said to have taken place at Stafford hospital.


Dan Scorer, campaigns manager at learning disability charity Mencap, said: “Independent research shows that over 1,200 children and adults with a learning disability continue to die unnecessarily every year in England because of discrimination in the NHS. This is the equivalent of a scandal on the scale of Mid-Staffordshire every year for people with a learning disability. The lack of decisive leadership by the government shows a continued failure to place equal value on the lives of people with a learning disability.


“A delayed commitment by the government to set up a national body to monitor and investigate the deaths of people with a learning disability is a lost opportunity to learn from mistakes and stop this tragic waste of life. Furthermore, it is utterly disrespectful to the families of those who have lost their lives due to poor NHS care.”


The principle investigator of the confidential inquiry, Pauline Heslop of Bristol University, also cautioned that the seriousness of the issues raised by her report required “more immediate actions … which are largely missing from the Department of Health commitments”.


She said: “We cannot allow the situation to continue in which people with learning disabilities are dying from causes of death amenable to good quality healthcare. That needs tackling with some urgency, and urgency of action appears to be lacking in the Department of Health response.


“In particular, we are disappointed that the Department of Health has not agreed to a national mortality review body to review future deaths of people with learning disabilities.”


Launching the government’s response, care and support minister Norman Lamb said: “Good, high-quality care should be expected for everyone. We wouldn’t accept this kind of poor care for cancer patients, so there is no reason why it is acceptable for people with learning disabilities.


“We are making progress on improving standards of care, but we have to go further and keep driving forward our plans.”


NHS commissioning group already restricting access to care

NHS commissioning groups already restricting access to care, survey reveals

Hernias, cataracts and infertility among conditions facing tighter criteria for treatment, according to research by the BMJ

Man having his eye examined

Restrictions on treatment for conditions such as cataracts has led to fears that GPs are being forced to become ‘rationers of care’. Photograph: Reuters

Patients are being denied treatment for hernias, cataracts and infertility because the new GP-led groups that control £65bn of NHS funding are imposing new restrictions on access to care, research reveals.

At least 27 of the 211 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across England have tightened the criteria for obtaining one or more forms of hospital treatment in 2013-14, the British Medical Journal has established. But, in all, 68 CCGs are looking again at their guidelines on when patients should receive treatment for one or more forms of illness, according to responses from freedom of information requests received from 195 CCGs.

The curbs have brought claims that patients’ health could suffer, that budgetary pressures are being put above patients’ need for treatment and that family doctors are being forced to become “rationers of care”.

For example, Mid Essex CCG has limited patients’ access to surgery for hernias and brought in a series of new criteria, such as whether the hernia is growing in size month on month or whether there is a risk of it becoming strangulated – a more serious condition – because the patient does heavy manual work.

It also now insists that those with Dupuytren’s contracture – when one or more fingers bends inwards towards the palm and cannot be used – have to have it affecting two or more fingers and be “severely impacting on activity of daily living” before action is taken, and that those with trigger finger, which causes pain in the hand, must have at least two injections of corticosteroids at least six weeks apart before they can undergo surgery.

Other CCGs have introduced restrictions on treatment for skin lesions, ganglions and septorhinoplasty – surgery to change the shape of the nose and relieve breathing problems – although others have removed curbs on other treatments they inherited from their predecessor primary care trusts.

And just four of the 195 CCGs told the BMJ that they had implemented advice issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in February that 41- and 42-year-old women should be able to undergo IVF treatment.

Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the BMJ’s findings “tell us that the NHS’s budget is dwindling and inadequate, and bear out our fears of GPs being put in the invidious position of being both the rationer and the patient’s advocate. There’s an inherent tension there.”

Dr Steve Kell, chairman of Bassetlaw CCG in Nottinghamshire and a spokesman for NHS Clinical Commissioners, denied that CCGs were rationing care in order to save money. All such decisions were taken on the basis of sound clinical evidence, Kell said. But the country needed to have a conversation about what the NHS can and cannot afford as it tries to reconcile rising demand and flat budgets, he added.

A Department of Health spokesman said that “restricting access to services on the basis of cost alone is wrong and compromises patient care. Decisions should be based on what is most clinically appropriate for the patient.”


Disability Awareness Day Sunday 8th July

Disability Awareness Day Is This Sunday!

by MICHAEL PARK on Jul 8, 2013 • 3:28 pm

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The countdown is on for this year’s Disability Awareness Day or DAD as it is affectionately known. On Sunday 14th July a huge tented village set in the grounds of the grand settings of Walton Hall Gardens in Warrington will be the location for the world’s largest ‘voluntary led’ pan disability independent living extravaganza, principally sponsored by Your Housing Group.


Over the years DAD has inspired individuals and groups across the UK and the World to set up similar celebratory events including a DAD Gibraltar, India, Denmark, Sweden and closer to home in Leigh, Shropshire and Cornwall.

With an expected 250 exhibitors, and over 25,000 visitors expected to travel to Warrington from across the UK and beyond, DAD will be the finale of a week consisting of 11 complementary events that will attract thousands more visitors.

Event founder and Co-ordinator Dave Thompson MBE DL said “This year’s event has been made possible thanks to the support of our sponsors, led by Your Housing Group, who signed up as principal sponsor.”

Brian Cronin, Chief Executive of Your Housing Group said “Your Housing Group is enormously proud to be the principal sponsor of the Disability Awareness Day 2013. This fantastic event is a unique opportunity to showcase the achievements and talents of disabled people.  It also offers Your Housing Group the chance to show the work we are doing across the group on Welfare Reform to ensure that our residents are fully informed and supported.”

During DAD staff from Your Housing Group will be on hand to talk to visitors who may have questions about housing and the recent Welfare Reform changes including the options available and where they can receive the right advice and support. The team will be joined on the stand by Chubb Community Care one of the UK’s leading providers of social alarm and telecare services and a partner of Your Housing Group.

Inclusive Arts is just one of the highlights of the event with disabled performers including Carly and Martin from the BBC’s Autistic Superstars, plus Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalists The Urban Gypsies and an exhibition of Artwork produced by disabled artists.

This year’s Sports Zone will include archery, rifle shooting, a climbing wall, wheelchair basketball, golf and scuba diving, with the opportunity to do a taster dive in the onsite temporary swimming pool.

Children and families won’t be stuck for things to do with entertainers and a funfair.

Free accessible Park & Ride service and free bus from Warrington Bus Interchange, British Sign Language Interpreters, a scooter and wheelchair loans service and trained assistants ensure an inclusive event.

Dave Thompson added: “Overall DAD focusses on what disabled people can do, not what we can’t do, and it proves to be a great day out for everyone.”

Photograph by Warrington Camera Club (2012)

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ATOS Costing the Taxpayer £1.6bn

Atos Protests4Atos, the private firm responsible for carrying out Work Capability Assessments on benefit claimants on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), will cost the UK taxpayer nearly *£1.6bn in private contracts.

The staggering figure consists of a number of different contracts ranging from disability assessments for benefit claimants to IT services for the governments enGage Gateway; IT infrastructure which allows for secure identity management and payment transactions for things like tax returns and registrations to government websites.

Atos has come under a great deal of criticism from disability campaigners, healthcare professionals and politicians, who argue that assessments to deem whether a person is capable of some form of work are ‘fundamentally flawed’ and should be scrapped.

DWP figures show that Atos recommendations have been wrong in as many as 1 in 5 assessments and successful appeals at Social Security Tribunals have been as high as 38%. The government claim that they are continuing to make improvements following reviews of the assessments and that successful appeals are now closer to 1 in 4 (25%).

This will not satisfy critics of Atos who say that the contract between the private contractor and the DWP should be revoked and that their poor performance in carrying out disability assessments for the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance, should mean that they should not be awarded a contract for carrying out assessments for the new disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance for disabled people. Both PIP and DLA are available to those both in work and out-of-work whilst ESA is only for those who are incapable of working – both can be claimed at the same time.

The medical services contract awarded to Atos to assess unemployed sick and disabled persons readiness for work will cost a total of £983 million from 1st September 2005 to 31st August 2015. The Atos contract for the new Personal Independence Payment will cost taxpayers close to £390 million, whilst their Occupational Health contract, which includes jobcentre employees, costs £12 million. Their IT contract with the DWP is worth £200 million whilst Atos involvement in back-to-work schemes (aka workfare) costs the taxpayer over £3.1 million. In total the full cost to the UK taxpayer of Atos contracts is close to £1.6 BILLION! Some believe that the total cost of these contracts could be much higher.

Atos are not alone in the windfall. Capita, which is another private firm, have held 16 contracts with the DWP worth over £586.4 million.

*Data Source: Disability Rights UK


was first published by the Welfare News