Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Cancer: Who gives ATOS?

Annie holds a letter from a NHS doctor telling her that she has cancer of the thyroid gland. If you place your hand on your throat you can feel it, just about. It's where your thumb is.

She waited over a year for proper medical help and did not find it from the NHS, who failed to make a follow up appointment for 13 months. Then she went native (as it were) and went back to her homeland of Lithuania. The Lithuanian health authorities removed her thyroid gland toot sweet. They prescribed 4 courses of radioactive iodine. They also diagnosed her partner with unsuspected liver cancer, and he passed within a week.

She comes back to Blighty because her children live here. They have been in school for years. She worked in a factory. She may feel more British than Lithuanian.

The deeply flawed Work Capability Assessment fails my sweet client. The so called doctors hired by ATOS (A French Company hired to fail as many benefit claimants as possible) ignore her NHS letter, and airily concludes she has only hyperthyroidism- an over active gland. Something that no GP would confirm without tests, but hey, what the heck, when you're slashing benefits for the work-shy we're all in it together.

The Tribunal doesn't list her case for a year, and then they fail to send her the papers, so the hearing has to be adjourned again.

The day before the next hearing I see her, and she tells me the cancer has spread to her lung. I start to grind through the 50 or so questions required to gauge her ability to work (how long can you watch TV before you lose the plot? Can you touch your toes when you bend down, and if you get dizzy touching your shin, who cares?). But it just seems wrong. She's too sick to engage.

“I feel tired and dizzy all the time” she says.

We go to the Tribunal and we win. Because the British sense of fair play allows very seriously ill people to bypass the WCA.

Today we won, but tomorrow we throw cancer victims onto the field of chance. No more Legal Aid for seriously ill people, because the DWP is or will be so transparent that no benefit claimant will need legal advice ever again. And just in case our plans don't work, we'll sack the lawyers beforehand in case this makes us look bad.

What makes me boil with rage is reading the Express and and it's ilk swallowing the Government lie that only one in 14 people claiming sickness benefits deserve to do so. 40% of claimants who appeal win. Those who have legal advice and representation are even more successful. Even the man who designed the WCA says it's not fit for purpose. But no, journalists in national newspapers are prepared to peddle unthinkingly the old lie; if you're too sick to work you must be lazy.

This is a tale about a woman stricken by cancer. When given a choice between an ageing health service struggling under a Stalinist dictat and a former communist block country she chose Lithuania. She worked hard in this country, she paid her taxes. Tomorrow she's on the rubbish heap.


  1. In my view the whole point of the ATOS testing is that it facilitates the transfer of hundreds of millions of pounds from the public purse to the private sector. There, it may be divvied up by the crooked businessmen and corrupt politicians (of all parties) involved. It's just a scam. The tests have no medical merit and no practical application other than the above. These people being declared fit to work are in reality unemployable. The testing ignores any difficulty claimants are likely to have in actually getting to and from any place of work and as many can't take care of themselves someone would have to be employed to take them to the toilet and feed them as necessary. The fact is that by any reasonable assessment these people are unemployable and so clearly entitled to the financial support the government is taking way from them. The whole scheme is a get-rich-quick scam, nothing more. The papers' attitude might be explained by the advertising bonanza they can look forward to from disability insurers (such as the hugely discredited Unum who have consulted with both governments about this, Labour and Coalition - Google for Unum scandal to read about their wrongdoings) when disability provision from government is effectively scrapped. Again in my view, Chris Grayling, Ian Duncan Smith et al should be answering difficult questions about this in the dock, not easy ones in the media.


  2. Is it not about time all the cases across the country were correlated together and the dwp and atos taken to court over human rights infringments before cameron gets his way and changes the human rights laws

  3. A bit from my dissertation on ESA

    ...conditionality regimes to get people into work, blend with the pre-existing equality agenda. This builds not only on an established disability rights framework but also on an exaggerated picture of its achievements, in order to reduce the numbers on benefit:

    "Continued advances in medical treatment mean that some conditions, which previously caused a high level of impairment, can be managed more effectively. Workplaces are always changing and new kinds of employment and opportunities are being created. The Disability Discrimination Act has strengthened employers’ responsibilities towards disabled people. Schemes such as Access to Work are offering support to make work available to many individuals to whom it was previously denied" (DWP, 2008b, p. 5).

    In the same way that the fitness to work discourse creates a hidden majority of incapacity benefit/ ESA claimants who are (or are soon to be) fit for work, this discursive formation creates an environment where: their conditions can generally be effectively managed; there are suitable jobs available; there are adapted workplaces, and; there are employers who will take on “responsibility” for disabled people with encouragement (no graphs or statistics are supplied to illustrate this however)-

  4. Glad someone is producing academic work on this, Anonymous! Hope you get high marks, and we get to see it online in the near future.

  5. The Disability Alliance are challenging with a Judicial Review. However, to know why the British press & media are not supporting the disabled go to and chaeck out the research report by Mo:
    ATOS HEALTHCARE OR DISABILITY DENIAL FACTORIES then ask yourself why the 2nd worst insurance company in America are welfare advisers to the UK govt since 1994. Mozza

  6. Quote==
    Anonymous said...
    Is it not about time all the cases across the country were correlated together and the dwp and atos taken to court over human rights infringments before cameron gets his way and changes the human rights laws

    27 August 2011 18:42

    YES = This needs to go to Humans rights law court to stop this govt from infringing our human rights! This is meant to bve THE MOTHER COUNTRY and no mother would EVER do this uinjustice to her child! This is disgraceful. Cameron should be immediately removed and ALL WCA stopped - all IB changeovers stopped immediately and permanently until the WCA is corrected - before you throw more innocent people into the fire - This is totally disgraceful and I will NEVER forgive Cameron for the damage he has done to so many peoples lives.