Skip to main content

ATOS, Maximus and Capita questioned on ‘gruelling' medical assessments

6 December 2017

The Work and Pensions Committee questions Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) contractors Atos, Capita and Maximus, who carry out the medical assessments for disability benefits PIP and ESA, putting the disturbing evidence it has heard so far to them. The Committee also publishes the contractors' written evidence ahead of their oral testimony.

Individual accounts of medical assessments

The unprecedented public response to the Committee's inquiry has included thousands of individual accounts of medical assessments that range from frustrating to gruelling, and oral testimony from claimants and advocacy groups in the first evidence session strongly reinforced that picture. 

Many claimants of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in particular challenge the DWP benefit decision based on these medical assessments, first through "Mandatory Reconsideration", and then a final appeal stage at a tribunal.

However, in May of this year an FOI request revealed that DWP sets a target for 80% of Mandatory Reconsiderations to uphold the original decision.

Committee publishes letter to DWP

The Committee today publishes a letter to DWP asking how such a target is compatible with a fair and impartial reconsideration process. High proportions of DWP decisions for both benefits are overturned at the tribunal appeal stage, sometimes with a radically different award being decided.

The Committee previously published evidence from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), representing the DWP staff who use the medical assessments to make benefits decisions.

In that evidence PCS says "our members report that there are regular examples where the level of expertise of the person carrying out the assessment does not appear to match the requirements of the health condition being assessed…" and that "we do not believe that there is any real quality control. Previous contracts have only been terminated when failings reached extreme levels."

High numbers of unacceptable assessments

DWP has today released statistics (see page 8) on the proportion of medical assessments that are deemed "unacceptable" when they are sent to the Department by contractors Atos and Capita. The charts appear to show remarkably high, if slowly improving, levels of unacceptable reports, in Capita's case at least with extraordinary fluctuations.

Key points:

  • Neither contractor has, at any point in the PIP contract, met the performance target of 3% of reports deemed "unacceptable".
  • Capita's own auditing found that at points in the contract almost 60% of its reports were "unacceptable".

Further information

Image: iStockphoto