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Work Capability Assessment

Volume 506: debated on Friday 5 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what (a) medical training and (b) diagnostic experience her Department requires of Atos Medical Ltd. employees contracted to carry out work capability assessments. (318177)

Atos Healthcare doctors must be fully registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) without current or previous restrictions, conditions or warnings and hold a licence to practice from the date the GMC issues licences. In addition they must have at least three years post full registration (GMC or EEA—European Economic Area equivalent) experience. Alternatively for non EU graduates three years minimum post full registration experience in the doctors native country is required. In individual cases, solely at the discretion of the DWP chief medical adviser, the requirements that no conditions or warnings be attached to registration and that the doctor must have a minimum of three years post registration experience, may be waived.

Atos Healthcare nurses must be fully registered (level 1) Registered General Nurses without current or previous restrictions or cautions with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. In addition they must have at least three years post full registration experience. In individual cases, solely at the discretion of the DWP chief medical adviser, the requirements that no cautions be attached to registration and that the nurse must have a minimum of three years post registration experience, may be waived.

Atos Healthcare doctors and nurses are specifically trained to provide decision making authorities with independent, accurate and authoritative advice and reports on the effects of disability.

Initial Training: varies in detail according to which benefit is involved. However all such training follows a similar basic pattern, as follows:

Theoretical Training: Theoretical training commences with a trainer led theory based course usually delivered to a group of trainees in a classroom setting. Trainees who are new to the work of Atos Healthcare will receive instruction in such areas as disability analysis, customer's rights, equal opportunities and professional standards. Detailed technical information relevant to the benefit concerned is provided. All Atos Healthcare trainers have undergone specific training to prepare them for the role, including practical sessions to enhance their understanding of how adults learn.

Practical Training: Practical Training is the work undertaken by the new recruits that is produced in a controlled environment. For examination centre based assessments the trainee is supervised and appraised by an experienced medical adviser as they complete their introductory cases. In the domiciliary visit based benefits the initial cases are monitored immediately on return to allow feedback to be given without delay.

Demonstration of understanding assessed by multiple choice examination: for incapacity benefit, employment and support allowance and disability living allowance the trainee is required to attain a pass mark in a multiple choice questionnaire before they are allowed to proceed to the practical training. The questionnaire includes questions on the whole range of topics covered in the training course.

Demonstration of understanding by audit: In all benefits the initial cases produced by the trainee are target monitored by an experienced medical adviser and the training cannot be considered as complete until the HCP has demonstrated that their work is acceptable. Whenever any problems are identified appropriate feedback is provided. Further cases are monitored until the work is shown to be satisfactory. If the situation is not rectified the HCP may be required to repeat the entire training process. Continued lack of progress will result in the HCP being offered no further training and no further work.

Approval: All HCPs must be approved by the chief medical adviser to the DWP and separate approval is required for each benefit area in which the HCP is involved. Approval is dependent on successful completion of all stages of their training process and ongoing demonstration that the work being carried out meets a satisfactory standard.

Written Guidelines: As part of the trainees training and ongoing support, HCPs are issued with guidelines pertaining to the benefit involved. These guidance notes provide specific technical advice about the benefit concerned, outline best practise and contain general advice about disability analysis and service to the people with disabilities.