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Friday, July 5, 2013

Atos Assessment Appointment Room Wait Causes Claimant Unbearable Suffering

Since January 2012, I have been reporting frequently and voluntarily to senior UN officials on the crisis for U.K.'s sick and disabled.  I therefore receive many e-mails from benefit claimants detailing their plight.  I have obtained written permission to post one of them, the below, as an anonymous letter.

I am extremely concerned that ATOS healthcare U.K. is rejecting requests for home assessments even if a claimant’s GP supports one. (See, and am distressed by the misery that lengthy Atos assessment appointment room waits are causing some claimants
(see, who would clearly benefit from a home assessment.

I will be writing the DWP ministers, the CEO of Atos Healthcare UK, and senior UN officials regarding this matter.  (I can be contacted at

I have a stenosis of the spinal canal that is unstable. It will never improve, sadly it will only get worse. The Orthopaedic surgeon who last operated on it advised me that I, and I alone, can judge what is good or bad for my well being, simply by monitoring the pain that it causes. Do something, get new pain, don't do what ever it was again, and so on. I take various meds all day and night, Morphine Sulphate and high doses of Codeine with paracetimol. I am in constant pain. Walking and standing are out of the question and sitting upright for longer than 30 minutes or so is the same. Most of my time I spend at home so I can adjust my posture from sitting to laying down as and when I need to so I don't cause more nerve damage or pain. I live with the constant fear of being totally dependent on carers if my spine crushes the nerves completely.
I've made all this very clear on the forms that I've filled out for Atos. I've made it clear that I can't travel far or sit for long without doing damage and therefore causing pain. They either don’t believe me or don’t read the endless forms I fill out for them.
I was called by Atos to book an assessment appointment. I repeated the above facts and said I couldn't accept any date without talking to my wife, who was at work, first. (She works full time, and is also my sole carer when she is at home). I was bullied into accepting a date for the assessment, as this date could be changed, but ONLY changed once, if it was not OK for her to take time off work. The fact that my wife’s job might be at risk if she takes too much time off apparently is tough! The appointment will NOT be at my nearest ‘clinic’ because I use a wheelchair. So I have to travel twice the distance because I’m disabled?
This was the start of the stress and anxiety caused by Atos.
It continued with the drive to the appointment, it took over an hour. After parking we got to the door of the office at 20 minutes before the appointment.
There was an elderly mother and her obviously disabled, adult daughter outside the Assessment Centre door talking to the intercom system, pleading to be let in, but she was not given access as she was a few minutes late for the appointment as the taxi driver could not find the address. This lady was very distressed and the receptionist, although not actually being rude, had the wrong tone of voice and was clearly bored with the situation. I heard the receptionist say you can’t come in as you've missed you slot. However, later I found out that the appointments were running nearly two hours late, so why was she turned away so brutally?
Once she gave up and went away we were let into what was in fact a near derelict building. The waiting room smelled stale and dirty, the carpet had very large stains and the chairs were covered in fluff, hair and more stains. The toilet was cleaner than the waiting room! This place is vile.
The receptionist handed me a form to fill out the first three lines and sign, I was already stressed and uncomfortable after the drive, so my wife offered to do it for me, but was told in the same tone that I heard on our arrival on the intercom, that you have to do it yourself, she added “it’s not our fault it’s the DWP”.
My wife asked for the form to fill out to claim our travel costs and was told we could not do this until after the assessment? Later I realised why.
We sat waiting, my appointment time came and went. I am now in a lot of pain as my wheelchair is built for lightness and fold-ability, not comfort. After 1 hour my wife asked the receptionist if there was somewhere that I could lay down as I was now in a lot of pain but was told “No, all the offices are in use”. I asked how much longer we would have to wait and was told “I don’t not know”. She did however explain that it could be up to another hour or so more as the doctor had to write a report after each assessment. She then went onto blame the customers who don’t put all their problems on the form that they filled out which makes their appointments run over and all sorts of other excuses. Now my stress levels are through the roof. I just manage to keep my polite head on, even when she insisted on talking over me at every point I opened my mouth. She said that as she worked for Atos she could not give her own opinion of Atos. She also said that how did we know that she was not ill or disabled in some way, but what that had to do with our situation I failed to see. Also it seemed that the only thing she was interested in was whether we were leaving or not, so she didn’t have to cancel someone else. This made clear why the poor woman was turned away so brutally on our arrival for being only a few minutes late. And why we weren’t allowed to fill in a travel expenses claim form on our arrival. I also now realise why the waiting room is so filthy and revolting. Their aim was to make things so nasty that no one but the strongest of people would wait for their appointment.
At this point I got very upset, extremely embarrassed and feel totally humiliated. I live my life within my limitations and the extra long journey and the long wait had taken their toll. With the hour long drive to get home and at least another hour waiting and then the assessment itself I decided I could not wait any longer, gave up, and we set off for home, in absolute agony. I want to disappear into a crack in the pavement!  

At home I had to increase my morphine and lay flat for the rest of the evening, and, one of the longest nights I've had since my collapse over 18 months ago. I've lost all hope now and am not sure I’ll ever be able to get out of my front door again. If this is a Government backed method of dealing with disabled people I might as well top myself now! (Name withheld)

Samuel Miller
Blog: Hephaestus: Disability Studies
Blog: My Disability Studies Blackboard
(Montreal, Canada)

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