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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Scots Nurse Joyce Drummond, Who Made Heartfelt Apology To Atos Assessment Victims, Submits Evidence To The Scottish Parliament Select Committee On Welfare Reform

I have a correspondence with Joyce Drummond, the Scots nurse who was the subject of this recent article:

Nurse makes heartfelt apology after Atos forced her to trick disabled people out of benefits


She has submitted evidence to the Scottish Parliament Select Committee on Welfare reform, which she forwarded to me this morning. 

I am posting her evidence in its entirety, which consists of three submissions to Scottish Parliament.  Please excuse the formatting and grammatical errors; I am simply copying  and pasting her letters.

First Submission:

I worked as a HCP (nurse) for Atos for 5 months in 2009. I left because of the way I felt I was expected to trick sick and disabled people. I have not worked since. I have recently whistleblown on Atos.

 I knew nothing about Atos when I joined, and left as soon as I realised that there was no way to fight from the inside,

I carried out Incapacity Benefit assessments, forerunner to ESA.
I stated at my interview for the job that I believed in social inclusion and social justice.
I went for 4 weeks training in England. The training did not prepare me for what I was expected to do in real life.
Firstly the forms that are completed prior to assessment, I have recently found out, are first opened by Royal Mail Staff. They are then sent for "scrutiny" where nurses decide whether or not a face to face assessment is required. I was not involved in this and do not know what criteria is used.

It is made clear throughout training and working that we are not nurses- we are disability analysts. Also that we do not carry out medical assessments - we carry out functional assessments. We did not even need a diagnosis to carry out assessments. I had reservations around consent as we were expected to assess patients - sorry we didn't have patients, we had claimants- who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or other substances. We were also consistently told that we did not make benefit decisions. The final decision was made by a DWP decision maker with no medical qualification. If our assessment was overturned at appeal we never knew about it. There was no accountability for assessments overruled.

Assessment starts on the day by reading the form you complete when applying for benefit. Things that are noted are-
did you complete the form yourself
Is the handwriting legible
are the contents coherent.
These things are already assessing your hand function, your cognitive state and concentration.
Do the things you have written add up.
Does your medication support your diagnosis.
What tests you have had to confirm diagnosis. Forexample a diagnosis of sciatica is not accepted unless diagnosed by MRI scan.
Do you have supporting medical evidence from GP or consultants. I f you do it shows that you are able to organise getting this information.
This is also a hidden cost to the NHS. I believe that if ATOS request information there is a charge levied by GP's.However claimants are expected to source nedical evidence themselves. It uses valuable NHS time for medical staff to write supporting statements.
There were no hidden cameras, at least in Glasgow, to watch people arriving for assessment or sitting in waiting room.
When the HCP has read your form they input some data into the computer system. The assessment proper begins when they call your name in the waiting room. At this point they assess-
did you hear your name being called
did you rise from your chair unaided, did the chair have arms or not
were you accompanied - this addresses you're ability to go out alone.
were you reading a paper while waiting- looks at your concentration.

Did you walk to the assessment room unaided, did you use aids correctly. Did you navigate any obstacles safely- assessing sight.
The HCP will shake your hand when inroducing herself- are you trembling, sweating- signs of anxiety.
Often ask on way to waiting room how long you've been waiting- assessing ability to sit- physically and looking at mental state.
How did you get here today- ability to drive, use public transport.

Assessment begins by listing medical conditions/complaints. For each complaint you will be asked-
How long have you had it, have you seen a specialist, have you had any tests, what treatments have you had, what's your current treatment. Have you had any other specialist input eg physiotherapy, CPN.
The HCP will use lack of specialist input/ hospital admissions to justify assessing your condition as less severe,
Medications will be listed, are they prescribed or bought. Dates will be checked on boxes to assess compliance.
Any allergies or side effects should be noted.
A brief note is made of how you feel each condition affects your life
A brief social history will be taken - who you live with, have you stairs in your house or to your house.
Employment history taken asking when you last worked, what you worked as, reason for leaving employment.
"Typical Day" This is the part of the assessment where how you function on a day to day basis is used to justify the HCP decisions.
Anything you say here is where you are most likely to fail your assessment. Along side this the HCP records their observations.
Starting with your sleep pattern, questions are asked around your ability to function.
Lower limb problems- look at ability to mobilise to shops, around the house, drive, use public transport, dress, shower.
Upper limb- ability to wash, dress, cook, shop, complete ESA form
.Vision- did you manage to navigate safely to assessment room.
Hearing- Did you hear your name being called in waiting room.
Speech- Could the HCP understand you at assessment.
Continence- Do you describe incontinence NOT CONTROLLED by pads,medication. Do you mention it's effects on your life when describing your typical day.
Consciousness- Do you suffer seizures- with loss of continence, possible injury, witnessed, or uncontrolled diabetes.
HCP obsevations include- how far did you walk to examination room, did you remove your coat independantly, did you handle medications without difficulty, did you bend to pick up handbag.
Formal exam consists of simple movements to assess limited function.
Things HCP also looks out for- are you well presented, hair done, makeup, eyebrows waxed.
Do you have any pets- looks at ability to bend to feed and walk.
Do you look after someone else- parent or carer- if you do this will be taken as evidence of functiong
Any training, voluntary work, socialising will be used as evidence of functioning.
This is not a comprehensive list, but gives you an idea of how seemingly innocent questions are used to justify HCP decisions
Mental Health
Learning tasks- can you use phone, computer, washing machine.
Hazards- Can you safely make tea, if claiming accidents- must have had emergency services eg fire service. Near miss accidents do not count.
Personal Actions- Can you wash, dress, gather evidence for assessment
Manage bills.
Observations by HCP= appearance and presentation
coping with assessment interview,abnormal thoughts, hallucinations,confusion.
Coping with change= Ability to attend assesment, attend GP or hospital appointments Shopping and socialising.
HCP observations- appearance, eye contact, rapport, no signs/symptoms abnormal mood/thoughts/perceptions. No suicidal thoughts.
Coping with social engagement/appropriateness of behaviour-
Inapproprite behaviour must have involved police
Ability to attend assessment, engage with assessor, behave appropriately.
Again this is not an exhaustive list, merely examples
There are some "special cases"
Off the top of my head- terminal illness - intravenous chemo- danger to self or others if found fit to work
I am happy to speak to any politician, of any party- except BNP.
I think it is telling that Atos have made no attempt to sue or silence me. They know I am speaking the truth
At present to qualify for ESA you need to score 15 points. This can be a combination of scores from physical and mental health descriptors.
To qualify for support group you must score 15 points in one section.
As long as you are claiming income based ESA the your award can be renewed at each assessment, if you gain 15 points.
Contribution ESA lasts for 1 year only, unless you are inthe support group. After 1 year , outwith support group, you only get income based ESA if your household income is below a certain threshold.It makes no difference how long yoy have previously paid NI for.
 For clarity, as far as I know in the real world, doctors carry out medical assessments, nurses carry out nursing assessments and physios carry out physiotherapy assessments.In the world of Atos each of these separate professions are employed as disability analysts, carrying out functional assessments.
Nurses are employable for these posts - if they have been qualified for at least 3 years, are registered to practice with the NMC, and have basic computer skills.
My interview consisted of-
face to face interview with medical director and nurse team leader.
a written paper assessing a scenario, in my case someone with back pain
A 10 minute basic computer test.
In order to be approved as disability analyst I had to complete 4 weeks Atos disability training, reach a certain standard of assessment reports- as decided by audit of all cases seen (don't know what criteria was) and finally approval to carry out WCA assessments from the Secretary for Works and Pensions.
In my opinion the money given to Atos and spent on tribunals should be given to NHS GPs. They are best placed to make assessments re patients work capability. They have access to all medical reports, past history, specialist input and know their patients. My concern would be what criteria the DWP would impose on GPs risking the doctor/patient relationship. GPs already assess patients for "fit notes", which have to be submitted to DWP during assessment phase of ESA
Re wages at Atos. While I worked there sessional medical staff were being paid £40 per assessment, as far as I am aware.
I have no idea of wages of permenant medical staff.
Nurses were on a salary, which based on 10 assessments a day (Atos target) equalled around £10 per assessment. These are approx, figures but may give a clue as to why Atos are employing nurses rather than doctors.
I hope this is of some help to your committee.
Please do not hesitate me for further clarification.
Joyce Drummond.

Second Submission:

I previously made a submission to your committee about working for Atos.

This submission adresses the effect the welfare cuts have had on me, personally.

Having worked and paid NI for most of the last 30 years, I found myself in the position of having to claim benefit due to ill health.

Previously I had been earning around £28,000 per year. On ESA I was getting under £100 per week. This caused considerable financial difficulty for my family. My husband was in work and my daughter was studying at Glasgow University. As my husband was working we were entitled to no other financial help.

Twice Atos decided I was fit to work, twice this was overturned at Tribunal.

We were managing, after a fashion, until my ESA was stopped in April 2012, due to it being contribution based ESA. As my husband was working I was not entitled to income related ESA. My GP agrees that I am not fit to work at present.
Not only has this caused even more financial difficulty, it has robbed me of any self esteem. self worth and dignity that I had managed to hold onto. I am totally dependant on my family for everything. I feel like a useless burden to them and have thought of suicide as a way out. This has not helped my illness or made getting back to work, in the longer term, any easier,
I am lucky that I have supportive friends and family. I worry about people in my position who may be in abusive, controlling relationships.
I hope you are never in the position to understand how demeaning it is to be like this. It is humiliating and soul destroying to go from being financially independent, to feeling like a begger.
I have worked as a nurse all of my life- I do not believe I am a scrounger or a benefit cheat. I am a human being, who through no fault of my own is unable to work at present.
I plead with this committee to review the law and help those of us in need of some support.
Thank you,
Joyce Drummond.

Third Submission:

3rd submission to Scottish Parliament and link to Independent, where Atos' response was slightly different to their response to Daily Record.

Previous 2 submissions sent previously.

FAO Welfare reform committee.

Following the article I did with the Daily Record, the same article was carried by the Independent newspaper.

This is a copy of the e-mail that I sent to Atos re their response to my article, printed in the Independent.

I have had no official reply to this e-mail, although was told by Atos press office by telephone that the reporter had misquoted them.

I believe this to be another example of Atos' lies.
Joyce Drummond.
-----Original Message-----
From: joyldrummond <>
To: customer-relations <>
CC: ""\"cwgca cwgca\"" <"cwgca cwgca"">
Sent: Sat, 29 Sep 2012 15:05
Subject: Joyce Drummond Independent newspaper

FAO Atos Healthcare Customer Relations Team,

My name is Joyce Drummond.

I am very happy to see a national newspaper -The Independent- highlighting the issues around Atos.

Atos response included in the article, regarding myself, is untrue.

 I was employed to carry out Incapacity Benefit assessments which were the forerunner of ESA. ESA assessments can be used to inform decisions re DLA. I therefor believe that all of these assessments are closely related.

I am extremely unhappy at such lies been told by Atos in an attempt to discredit me.
I would appreciate an apology from Atos and request that they contact the Independent newspaper to retract their response.
I await your response, in order to inform my decision as to proceeding with this complaint.
Joyce Drummond.


  1. Well done Joyce,thank you for following your conscience and I am so sorry you have been treated in a way I recognise all too well.I am an ex nurse who has become, through life's events,a full time carer and I have been disabled for a lot of that time too.
    All of that is tolerable as I reckon I have done my best to cope in tough circumstances and do not feel bitter about what has affected me and the losses we have all taken as a family.
    However,what is unbearable,is being insulted and slandered for decades by self serving, grasping, greedy politicians who employ amoral,profit driven corporate bodies like ATOS.
    All 3 main parties back this employment of ATOS! Their day will come of course,as it always does, to balance out the evil behaviours committed by those motivated by avarice and a hunger for power and status.
    Good will always triumph over evil.
    Thank you for all the effort you have put into trying to expose this wickedness so that politicians can be stopped from destroying our noble welfare state which as a country we are rightly proud of.
    To the public who still do not know the rate of benefit fraud ,I will reiterate again,it is low,very low : 0.2-0.5%
    The public have been stitched up by a drip feed of lies and propaganda to get votes and when next a healthy able bodied person suddenly has a life changing event occur and looks around for that safety net following perhaps redundancy,ill health or family breakdown,it will have vanished and they will be on their own !
    There is nothing worse than good men who stand back and watch but do nothing, whilst innocents suffer and die.

  2. nothing there most people did not already suspect but thank you for being so candid.

    so royal mail staff have access to peoples NI numbers bank account details address and a full medical history once opening claimants ESA forms and then forward them onto the DWP. that must breach some kind of confidentiality i find this also very disturbing

    1. See:

  3. Joyce, you are a God send. I'm so sorry for everything you have been through, but I feel your journey has been for a reason. Don't feel a burden, I'm sure your family love you, and appreciate what you are doing for the rest of the family. I have often wanted to say to MPs "I hope you never get ill and find yourself in this position" too. Well done for saying it. (In reality though, most of them have trust funds to fall back on anyway). Joyce, I don't know if you realise how valuable your description of the WCA is to so many people. I for one will be printing it out for my GP to illustrate to him how important letters are with the ESA50, as their current policy is to not provide them unless asked by the DWP. He's already sharing with the other partners the information I give him. So, thank you :)

  4. Bravo Joyce! Many thanks for taking a stand.

    This government is committing Genocide....killing off the disabled!

    1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). Article 2 of this convention defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

  5. The CPPCG preceded the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

  6. Joyce Drummond, you are a hero. Your brave and compassionate actions will make a huge difference to so many people. I suffer from depression and am soon to go through a WCA. Reading this blog post and the article in the Record has blown away the despair with a gust of hope.

    I am so sorry you are feeling bad. No-one deserves to feel this way. I am glad to hear that you have supportive friends and family. I hope with all my heart that you feel better soon. And I hope that you read this, and I hope you know how much good you are doing, and I hope you feel very, very proud.