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Medical Services Reports

Volume 570: debated on Monday 18 November 2013

25. What steps he is taking to improve the quality of medical services reports on claimants of benefits. (901092)

This Government take the quality of assessments very seriously. That is why, before I became the Minister, when the Government saw a drop in the quality of work capability assessments, Atos was instructed to implement an improvement plan to ensure that assessment reports meet the high standards that the Department needs. That plan is now complete.

My constituent Mr Robert Shafer suffered an injustice as a result of a rogue medical services report from many years ago. Will the Minister undertake to take further steps to improve the quality of medical services reports, and arrange a reply to my latest letter to the Secretary of State, to which a response is overdue, on behalf of my constituent?

On the latter point, not only will I ensure that the hon. Gentleman receives the letter he requires, but if he wants to meet me, I will be more than happy to do that. The Department has commissioned four independent reviews. We know we need to get there; we know we need to do more. We have made changes to help cancer patients and are carrying out an evidence-based review of criteria, which is being overseen by Professor Harrington. I expect to see that report quite soon.

My constituent Matthew Moore, who has a severe mental health condition, was told that he no longer qualified for employment and support allowance. He appealed and months later saw the decision in his case overturned in a few minutes. The tribunal chair said that he was shocked that ESA had been withdrawn in the first place and had no hesitation in awarding 30 points. Is that not yet another example of the incompetence of the many people paid to carry out assessments of some of our most vulnerable people, and of why the Government need to get their act together, have some compassion and ensure that such people are treated fairly?

Individual cases are understandably quite emotional for individual MPs and their constituents. If the decision in that case was overturned, we will look carefully at what the tribunal said. We need to do that to ensure we get it right. However, this process was started by the previous Administration—it is nothing new for this Government—but we will get it right where, I am afraid, they got it wrong.