From the Daily Record, Scotland, 2 November 2012. Story by Torcuil Crichton.
TWO doctors believe the signing of the document would make staff less likely to report their concerns about the way the medical tests are carried out.
DOCTORS and nurses carrying out Atos’s controversial work capability assessments are made to sign the Official Secrets Act, the healthcare company confirmed yesterday.
The admission came after two doctors who work for the firm raised their concerns.
Both believe having to sign a document pointing out their obligations under the Act would make staff less likely to blow the whistle if they had concerns about the way the medical tests are carried out.
Atos are being paid more than £100million a year by the Government to do the assessments that help determine whether claimants are eligible for sickness benefits.
The process has been dogged by controversy.
One doctor, who joined the firm last summer, said: “I could not have been more surprised when I was told that everybody had to sign the Official Secrets Act.
“There’s something very sinister, cloak and dagger, about it.”
The doctor added that there were already strict rules about disclosure of patient details, saying: “You would have thought we would be covered by our professional codes of conduct.”
A second doctor said: “There’s no justification for a healthcare practitioner assessing a person suffering from back pain or depression to sign this kind of document.”
Atos said they have contracts with other public bodies, including the MoD, which require their employees working with those organisations to sign the Official Secrets Act.
They have one security policy across the company and this was why doctors working with the Department for Work and Pensions are also included.
The DWP said they weren’t aware that Atos employees were being made to sign the Act.
Labour MP Tom Greatrex said: “This is an extraordinary development.
“When Atos are in receipt of millions of taxpayers’ money, it is unacceptable for a culture of secrecy and cover-up to prevail.”