Nursing regulator finally clarifies stats on benefit assessment complaints

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The nursing regulator has finally clarified how many disabled people have lodged complaints about nurses who have carried out disability benefit assessments for government contractors.

The figure produced by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is its third attempt to produce accurate statistics on how many complaints it has received about the conduct of nurses carrying out assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance.

NMC said that it received just 22 complaints about the conduct of nurse assessors working for Atos, Capita and Maximus during 2016, and not one of them was taken forward past the initial screening stage for further investigation and regulatory action.

Many benefit claimants have raised concerns about the apparent refusal of NMC and the Health and Care Professions Council – which regulates paramedics and physiotherapists – to take seriously their complaints about healthcare professionals who carry out assessments.

Disability News Service (DNS) has been trying for four months to secure accurate figures on complaints to the NMC about assessors, after originally lodging a freedom of information request in mid-December.

NMC first responded in January with figures that showed it had received more than 1,600 complaints in five years about nurses working for Atos, Capita and Maximus.

Those figures were published as part of a DNS investigation that showed how healthcare professionals – mostly nurses – working for Capita and Atos have lied, ignored written evidence and dishonestly reported the results of physical examinations in PIP assessment reports compiled for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

But in February, NMC withdrew the figures, blaming its failure to use the correct terms in searching its database. It also said the data it had provided had not been “manually checked or filtered”.

It then provided – on 6 February – new figures which suggested that there had been only 29 complaints during the whole of 2016 across the three assessment companies, including just three complaints lodged against Capita nurses, one of which had to be abandoned because of a failure to secure consent.

But DNS questioned those statistics because two PIP claimants had come forward to describe how they had lodged complaints about Capita nurses last year.

NMC has now produced a new figure, which it insists is accurate, and has apologised for its earlier errors.

DNS agreed to narrow down the request to just one year because of restrictions imposed by freedom of information legislation.

NMC now says it received just 22 complaints about assessors from the three companies in 2016, and that all 22 were closed at the initial “screening” stage as NMC was “satisfied that these did not meet the threshold for regulatory action”.

The figures are likely to bemuse disabled campaigners, and those who contributed to DNS’s investigation, which found significant evidence of concerns about the honesty and competence of nurses who carry out benefits assessments.

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