The Countess of Mar, chairman of the Forward ME group of national M.E. charities and support groups, tabled a question that asked the Government what effect the Local Medical Committee conference motion calling for the abolition of work capability assessments, passed on 22 May, will have on the management of work capability assessments conducted by ATOS Healthcare.
On 11 June, Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud replied:
The contract between ATOS Healthcare and DWP to deliver face-to-face assessments as part of the Work Capability Assessment is due to run until August 2015, with the option of a further two-year extension. The contract is under constant review to ensure that it delivers best value for money. As the department has already made clear, we will reopen a tendering process for the contract before 2015.
The quality of ATOS Healthcare’s reports is also subject to stringent quality checks and audit, and the work of all healthcare professionals is subjected to random quality audit by a system agreed with the department and conducted by experienced medical auditors within ATOS Healthcare. The quality of ATOS Healthcare’s audit is validated by senior medical auditors from ATOS Healthcare and doctors working for the Chief Medical Adviser to the DWP.
The department has already held constructive discussions with the BMA about the Work Capability Assessment and will look to maintain this dialogue.
The department is committed to continuously improving the Work Capability Assessment to ensure that it is as fair and accurate as possible. Professor Malcolm Harrington’s independent reviews have played and continue to play an important role in this.