My Saga with ATOS and the Missing Equipment!

My saga began in early April this year when  I received the dreaded ATOS medical assessment, I immediately phoned to ask for the appointment to be recorded; after persisting with a request to have the appointment recorded it was rearranged April 30th 2012.

On Thursday April 26th I received a phone call from a man named Simon from ATOS who tells me my appointment for 30th needed to be rearranged again as no recording equipment was available. Following a discussion where he tried to reassure me, I didn’t NEED to have my assessment recorded, he conceded to my persistence and said he’d get back to me, “hopefully in the next 4/6 weeks”!

Over the following weekend, I read an article where another claimant had an almost identical situation and as a result her benefit had been stopped due to her ‘non-attendance’. So in an attempt to avoid this I decided to turn up the next morning to make sure they knew the appointment had been rearranged.

After struggling to get to a truly awful building, and through 3 really heavy fire doors without automatic access, I got to into the assessment centre where I spoke to Sarah on the desk, who confirmed my fears, my appointment had not been rearranged! She did however stress, I could still be seen, but the interview would not be recorded. I politely declined and reiterated I wanted to have any assessment recorded; Sarah then smiled very apologetically and explained there was only one piece of recording equipment for each of the 10 ATOS regions. Sarah then said she needed to speak to  Simon at head office to confirm he had actually contacted me to rearrange the assessment; and I was advised to wait whilst she spoke with him.

I sat down fuming that whatever I said clearly was taken with a pinch of salt and after 5 minutes or so, Sarah called me back to the desk; apparently  Simon wasn’t in yet, but she assured me she would speak with him as soon as she could. I ask if I could have a number to call him on but, no, she wasn’t allowed to give head office numbers to customers. I asked her to request  Simon to call me to ensure I would not be classed as a non attender, and I left the centre.

 Simon called back fairly swiftly and initially asked to speak to Jennifer, when I questioned the name he got it right on the 2nd attempt and then immediately proceeded to tell me off,  “and why did you attend the appointment”; I explained why and he retorted ‘”but I spoke and told you, it  had to be rearranged”.

 I stated I was aware of that but wondered why the assessment centre hadn’t been informed; that was it, off he went ranting “I just wanted to blame someone and he wasn’t apologising “; I insisted this was not so, I merely wanted to know why a Company that advertised itself as a large successful technological information company, didn’t use this to ensure everyone knew what was happening. He said “they didn’t need to know”!  He went on to say that nothing that nothing that happened with appointments had any effect on people’s benefits;  and when I informed that the DWP only allows clients one rearranged appointment before sanctions were enforced, he didn’t respond

I went on to ask why there was only 1 piece of recording equipment available for the whole region, he said it was down to finaces; so I suggested that  maybe ATOS should use some of the large profit made from the Contact with the DWP to buy more equipment? Again I received no reply, he merely reiterated that  ”I was trying to blame someone” but  he couldn’t, or wouldn’t reply when I asked him what I was blaming anyone for, at this point I ended the call and Sat down to write my complaint to ATOS.

I received the reply on May 15th, it was a three page letter on paper headed “Medical Services – Provided on Behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions; it began with the usual” so sorry … “and I would like to extend my apologies”  the usual waffle you expect from this type of epistle and went on to explain their “procedures on the recording of assessments”.

Within this tome I was informed that the DWP had only funded 10 dual recording machines, so ATOS has a contract worth millions yet the recording equipment we purchased from public funds!

Furthermore I was assured 5 times that staff are ‘polite’ and ‘courteous’ at all times when talking with us ‘customers’.

I then at the beginning of this month received 2 letters on the same day offering me 2 further appointments, which when I contacted ATOS neither were available for recording! Following my reiteration of my assessment to be recorded, both were cancelled.

Last week I received an appointment for Monday 30th June, after the by now regular follow up phone call, this date was finally going to be recorded.

Then on Wednesday (27/12/12) I had another phone call from Simon, apologising that the appointment for next  Monday wouldn’t be recorded after all, and that he could not offer me another date as ‘all the equipment is broken’!! I asked what had happened and he said it was down to damage the machinery had suffered at the hands of the couriers “TNT”.

I asked when they would be mended/replaced and he spluttered something that sounded like he didn’t think they would be be, I queried this and was told it was out of his hands and I needed to talk to customers services; the line was engaged so he gave me a number to call.

I immediately sent an email outlining my concern that recordings of assessments were no longer to be available, through the website. I ten spent the next 90 minutes trying to reach customer services.

When I finally got through I wish I hasn’t bothered, I was ‘greeted’ by a woman who after hearing my question told me I needed to write to them, I explained I had done this but wanted to talk to someone about the saga; that was it, all she would say is you have got to put it in writing; and I mean that was ALL she said, getting louder at each reiteration. I gave up and ended the call.

I now am waiting for the next episode in what is becoming an epic!

 

 

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33 thoughts on “My Saga with ATOS and the Missing Equipment!

  1. What a saga indeed Jayne and it just takes energy you don’t have to spare….my hunch that is certainly getting backed up by slips from ministers at dispatch box etc is the dwp have atos over a barrel and are hiding behind their fall guy.

    What a shower indeed

    Bx

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      • I think it’s the reverse actually, I know a guy who knows a guy… anyway, the contract with Atos, signed by Purnell with Mandelson pushing his hand, states that we have to give Atos more money than the country has, more than doubling the national debt, if we take away the contract. That’s why the government are ignoring all criticism and it’s why Labour will only mutter about changes being needed etc.

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  2. my own saga replicates this almost exactly. I can’t beleive ATOS can give their CEO a £1m bonus, but get the DWP to buy the recorders out of tax payers money.

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  3. The sheer thought of Atos is enough to exhaust me for a couple of days, there is no way I could put up with that hassle and no way anyone should have to.

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  4. How is it they always ask for things in writing.
    A high percentage of people find it extremely difficult to actually put pen to paper for a large variety of reasons, and they are being further penalised as a result. Also, alot of people can not at short notice find someone to write on their behalf when things go wrong because of the short time limit for complaining.
    The whole thing is a torturous farce orchestrated by a bunch of fat cat bigoted bullies. (sorry, rant over)

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    • elaine, under the disability discrimination act they have to communicate in your preferred style. ie if you have a disability that prevents or makes it very difficult for you to communicate in writing, you can request verbal communication if that enables you to deal with things. but if you do always get things confirmed in writing as you may need the proof. they may try and fob you off, but if you stand your ground they do do it.

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      • Thanks for the comment Diana, but I think Elaine is referring to the fact that any complaints/comments/queries MUST be in writing according to ATOS; certainly this was what they were insisting I do

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    • Elaine,

      I think that there’s at least one genuine reason to get you to put things in writing, and one phony excuse.

      The real reason is that a written communication is one that is easy to file, and easy to reply to. If you telephone then someone should write down what you said, but if it’s really complicated (like Jayne’s story) then trying to write it all down could be a real problem. Writing it down forces people to be more concise, gives them a clear “target” for explanations, excuses and (of course) lies. But it does also (providing you keep a copy) give you a record of what you said.

      There’s a phony reason as well. If people have to put things down in writing – particularly when it requires a long, complicated letter – then many people (including me) will just give up. I’m betting that insisting on people writing letters cuts their “customer support” and complaints unit workload by about 80%.

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      • Honestly it’s better to send and receive things in writing, do so whenever possible. I know that can be a problem for many with disabilities, but if you have someone who can type for you or read/record a letter for you to listen to then stick with the written word. It’s YOUR proof too and makes ‘interesting’ reading for a watch dog an MP or a court who have little patience with organisations that waffle, apologise and do nowt.

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  5. Terrible way to treat unabled people who are disabled through no fault of their own by this Tory Government, DWP and ATOS, who can not work because of illness having to go through this carry on. I too had to go through it. I believe the benefits system has to be fair and go to those who are actually in need . The system was open to abuse by benefit cheats and now there is a big crack down and everyone is a genuine claimant is being penalised by the above said organisations. Not fair, surely the should be an easier way than this. ATOS should have had more recording equipment especially when it’s them who is raking in the millions of tax payers money. I wish you all success in fighting your claim .

    Billy

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  6. Re ATOS ……they can afford to pay their boss a £1m bonus but expect the tax payer funded State DWP to pay for dual tape deck recorders or CD twin deck recorders – pathetic !! ………..I’ve no problem with the proper innovators , risk takers , good marketing with real red in tooth and claw capitalism ……….however this is parasitical pretend capitalism , no firm that lost that many tribunals i.e. up to 70 % with advocacy , 80 % in trial areas , some CAB senior case workers winning 86 % – 90 % purely on evidence and case law …..would last five minutes …they’d be deservedly bankrupt ! ……….It’s a absolute surreal farce , ATOS are paid £100m a year for these ” non medical ” medical ” , ” assessments ” but the cost of appeals has risen to between £60 – 70 – 80 m per year .

    ……..if anyone was dragged into the office for a IUC ( Interview under Caution ) re suspected fraud , the LA ( Local Authority ) / DWP would have to have them under PACE i.e. professional standards …however Tory politicians and papers constantly imply fraud from ESA / IB / DLA claimants …a constant drip , drip feed of lies , half truths and hate – absolutely amateurish !!

    Re previous comments about the system being open to abuse i.e. ” The system was open to abuse by benefit cheats and now there is a big crack down ” – I’m afraid some people have swallowed the propaganda hook , line and sinker in the Tory papers such as The Daily Hate Mail , the sort of people that would buy a certain clock tower or famous bridge .

    The forms were very long and extensive …..the criteria the toughest in Europe , everything had to be backed up with prima facie evidence by Hospital Specialists , and Consultants that has to stand up in court . The fraud rate has been a constant 0.5 % for years , no matter what the scheme or benefit was .

    There was a reported case of a ATOS ex NHS tax payer funding trained , SGN ( State General Nurse ) allegedly overruling NHS Consultants and Specialists saying that someone medically retired with Parkinsons Disease would ” recover ” in 7 months …….if she pulled a stunt like that in a hospital , she’d be through the door pronto , the RCN ( Royal College of Nursing ) Union wouldn’t be able to do much for her ….the NMC ( Nursing and Midwifery Council ) could have her struck off ….however report-ably the NMC have KPMG based ( Major Tory Donor ) links with ATOS ….their tentacles appear to spread everywhere .

    It depends if you tolerate necessary evils or if you go holier than thou like that moralistic hypocritical , sanctimonious buffoon Iain Duncan Smith – famous for the investigated ” Betsygate ” or Grayling with reports of his 4 houses within the M25 area , some funded by the tax payer or Lord Freud the Welfare Minsister …a ” colourful ex city character ” report-ably infamous for selling Railtrack off too cheap and pushing share issues for companies that ” subsequently ” went bust …

    …..the sort had they been brought up on a council estate they’d be constantly in front of the beak for selling counterfeit designer clothes or banged up for selling knock off i-Pods in ” The Pitbull and Hammer ” but are protected by the old school tie brigade ………….. ….if so they should expect to be contradicted and challenged ? – IDS sounds the like the sort that had piano legs covered but secretly frequented ” working girls ” for ” four penny knee tremblers ” in a another age ?

    The line of open or sideways questioning by ATOS ” HCPs ” about the likes of ” East Enders ” would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious ………it’s on the lines of the ” Assistant Manager in Wetherspoons said ” or ” the woman behind the counter in the Co-op said ” ….what’s the next plan ? …..reading tea leaves or tarot cards ? to ” assess ” claimants ? – Wytchfinder General Stuff ?

    The methods used by ATOS are the same outlawed in many US states and New Zealand as used by UNUM Provident , illegal Medical Insurance definitions and methods ………UNUM provided the infamous tick box ” Computer says no ” LIMA software and the UNUM MDA ( Medical Disability Assessment ” is ” remarkably similar ” to the DWP WCA ( Work Capability Assessment ) …..UNUM have been in the Senate over the Pond . ATOS fear a class action bringing them down too …they’re already on the run .

    They’ve already made their Doctor HCPs sign the Official Secrets Act as a gag …too many whistleblowers and adverse hard copy media and on line coverage .

    It’s nothing really to do with fraud in reality ….it suits UNUM to cash in on private medical insurance schemes and ATOS to take the flack for them ….trebles all round as they say in ” Private Eye ”

    What ATOS are terrified of is the likes of incriminating You Tube Videos going viral ….hence the instutionalised paranoia about everything being in writing …….there appears to be a cultish element too ….which is hardly surprising given the targeted academic pseudo science …on the lines of people can think themselves better and Work will make them free …….which is also the very hollow rhetoric parroted off by the Tory politicians – but insist on closing Remploy factories down ….that did set some disabled people free .

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  7. Keep up the good work – I’ve signed the petition & shared it on FB – When I originally applied for DLA, I had a 2 year fight on my hands – 2 medicals – 3 tribunals (1 postponed after 5 minutes) I wish I had recorded the medicals as when I received copies of the report it was totally fictional _ I sent a letter of complaint to the DWP about the ATOS doctors report – The response from a ‘Senior’?? ATOS doctor was in places insulting and in places you could tell he could not find the words to back the doctor (although he tried hard to make it my fault).
    I received my DLA after 2 years fighting, as I could not do this alone I hired a solicitor. The fees I ended up paying ate up all of the back benefit I received, but at least I felt vindicated.
    Wish I had had a forum (and the energy) to print the letters and reports I received at the time!
    Keep the pressure up – Regards Suz

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  8. Jayne

    I had a thought – well several actually.

    Firstly that the question of who paid for the machines could be tested with an FoI request. You see, I’m not sure that ATOS are correct in saying that, “the DWP had only funded 10 dual recording machines.” Their history of deliberate lies and people producing the first excuse that comes into their head doesn’t leave me with any confidence that whoever wrote that letter was a reliable source of information.

    However, if the DWP paid for the machines in the first place, then we (as taxpayers!) can demand that they either buy replacements, or get the wretched machines mended. We can’t tell ATOS what to do with their equipment and even the DWP can only demand whatever is in their contract. So if the DWP really did buy them, then there is an upside.

    I’ve just seen that you have put in an FoI request (well, strictly speaking I see that someone called JayneL has recently put in a request to the DWP about the recording machines. I’m assuming that it’s you!) Your page has a note on it requesting that you sign in and check the status – I’m not quite sure why, but they do seem keen that you should do so.

    In case you’ve lost the link it is:
    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/costs_of_recording_equipment

    I’m intending, today, to put in another FoI simply asking if the DWP funded the machines, and if so whether they retain ownership. That assumes that I don’t run out of spoons first.

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  9. Pingback: My Saga with ATOS and the Missing Equipment! | Deaep

  10. Funny that they ask for stuff in writing. They didn’t write to me when they terminated my claim because they had “lost” my ESA 50 form. I only found out when I received my P45 saying that my claim had ended. It took 6 weeks to re-instate my benefits and, despite request for an investigation into the whereabouts of my personal medical documents I submitted, they still have not written to me. That was 18 months ago.

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  11. Jayne

    From Benefits and Work site:

    “We have some official statistics from the DWP about the national “trials” of audio recording.

    The DWP state that “in March 2012, no such information was recorded or held,” – which rather contradicts their original timetable for the “trials”. They also say – in an official response to a Freedom of Information request that,

    “Since Atos Healthcare started compiling statistics in March 2012 – 542 audio recordings have been completed, and to date 9 requests have been refused.”

    This information is on P2 of https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/108578/response/329043/attach/3/IR564%20Mr%20Otram%20V%204.pdf

    It would be interesting to add that figure of 9 refusals to the list of DWP/Atos statistics which need checking – it does not say, of course, whether those 9 refusals include people who would not take NO for an answer.”

    Maybe that means you!

    Could you rustle up 10 people who have been refused from your list of contacts? Then that could be added to the list of statistics not so much misused as simply falsified. I found someone who had, I thought, been refused, from the dpac site – but perhaps this would not count:

    “I asked Atos about recording the visit. They told me I would have to hire a professional who would have to calibrate their equipment in front of the doctor and us plus would have to give a recording to both parties. When I agreed to this… they laughed at me and said no doctor would agree to be recorded.”

    Good luck with your petition, which I’ve signed.

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    • PS I may spread this about a little as it needs to be known soon – before the DWP committee grills whichever minister appears. I wonder which it will be – Mark Hogan the automaton who simply repeats his misinformation or the McVey woman with her weather-girl smile and her flannel. Or will we get IDS with his, “We are engaged in a great crusade and all who oppose us are enemies of truth, justice and the American way.” attitude?

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    • It has to be said I insisted on my assessment being recorded. It resulted in the assessment being continually postponed for around six months but it was eventually recorded and I got in the support group which is indeed where I should be. So it can be done.

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