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Social Security Benefits: Medical Examinations

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 25 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what special training is received by doctors contracted by his Department to carry out personal capability assessments in severe and enduring mental health problems. (160762)

The doctors who are contracted by Atos Healthcare to carry out personal capability assessments on behalf of this Department receive comprehensive benefit-specific training across the full range of conditions and disabilities, including mental health conditions, before they can carry out medical examinations, assessments or give advice regarding benefit claims.

The training enables them to carry out personal capability assessments whatever the customer's condition or disability, as it concentrates on gathering and evaluating information and using it to determine and explain the functional effects of a person's condition so that a decision maker can use that information to decide entitlement to benefit. Doctors are only approved to carry out this work once they have demonstrated full competence, and the quality of their work will continue to be monitored to maintain high standards. Specific training modules are delivered that cover mental health problems and doctors are provided with evidence-based medicine guidance modules in specific mental health conditions and on learning disabilities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many personal capability assessments were carried out by Atos Healthcare for his Department in the last year for which figures are available; and how many of these were reviewing (a) mental health, (b) physical health and (c) both mental and physical health. (160763)

In the 12 months to September 2007, Atos Healthcare undertook 528,380 personal capability assessments. Information about the number of assessments that were reviewing mental or physical health is not available as it is not possible to break the figure down by incapacity.