New information reveals huge number of complaints against fit-for-work assessors
Complaints were made against nurses carrying out assessments on behalf of the DWP
More than 1,600 complaints have been made against nurses carrying out fit-for-work assessments in the last five years.
A freedom of information request to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) by disability rights campaigner John Pring revealed around 7% of an estimated 4,800 complaints a year received by the NMC over the last five years have been linked to nurses working for a benefits assessment contractor.
Pring said it points to “a far-reaching, institutional problem that stretches across DWP and the two private sector contractors” namely Atos Healthcare and Capita that carry out the personal independence payment (PIP) assessments on its behalf.
Atos carries out face-to-face assessments for PIP in Scotland, the north of England, London and southern England, and until 2015 also carried out work capability assessments (WCAs), which test eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits.
WCAs are now carried out by the US outsourcing giant Maximus – which took over the contract from Atos following years of complaints while Capita carries out PIP assessments in Wales and central England.
According to information contained in the FOI request, alleged dishonesty includes assessors refusing to accept further written evidence from medical experts; wrongly claiming detailed physical examinations had been carried out during the assessment; refusing to list all of a claimant’s medications; ignoring or misreporting key information told to them during the assessment; and reporting that a claimant had refused to co-operate with a physical examination, when they were unable to complete it because of their impairment.
Pring says in an article that the NMC has warned that an accurate figure for the number of complaints against assessment nurses could be over 1,600.
Our providers are committed to providing a high-quality, sensitive and respectful service - DWP
The disability campaigner has now submitted a fresh freedom of information request for more detailed information for 2016 only, which NMC has agreed to provide.
However the DWP dismissed the importance of the findings.
A spokeswoman said: “The department cleared 1.9 million PIP claims between 1 December 2013 and 30 September 2016, and in that time only a very tiny proportion of complaints regarding Atos and Capita’s delivery of PIP were accepted for investigation from the Independent Case Examiner [which deals with appeals that follow complaints rejected by the assessment companies, rather than those submitted through the NMC].
“Our providers are committed to providing a high-quality, sensitive and respectful service by conducting fair, accurate and objective assessments.
“We have independent audit in place to ensure advice provided to DWP decision makers is of suitable quality, fully explained and justified.”