A disabled man has had his benefits slashed after an Atos nurse lied about what he told her during an assessment about his pain and suicidal thoughts, and repeatedly under-stated how his health conditions affect his day-to-day life.
The nurse even claimed that Ian Littler, who lives with significant mental distress and long-term health conditions, said that all people were “scum” when he said no such thing during the telephone assessment.
As a result of the assessment report, he had his monthly personal independence payment (PIP) cut by nearly £340 a month.
It is the third time he has had to appeal after an inaccurate assessment report has resulted in his PIP being cut.
Atos has accepted the report was not fit for purpose – after listening to a recording he secretly made of the telephone assessment in April – and is investigating his complaint.
Littler, from Oldham, is calling for the nurse to be sacked and struck off from the nursing register, and he is seeking legal advice.
An Atos PIP client relations officer has told him: “The documentation of the information provided by you which can be heard within the recording, has not been documented accurately and there are inaccuracies in the report.”
It is just the latest case in which disabled people have proved that PIP assessors working for government contractors Atos and Capita have lied in their assessment reports.
The timing is particularly bad for Atos as it has so far failed to win a single contract to deliver PIP assessments and fitness for work tests for DWP over the next five-year period, and has been fighting through the courts to secure the last remaining contract (see separate story).
Among the errors in the assessment report, the nurse said Littler – who lives alone – would always take his medication, when he actually told her he could not take his anti-depressants unless someone was with him because of the risk that he would choke.
She also claimed he only expressed pain twice during the 40-minute assessment, even though he can repeatedly be heard groaning with pain.
The nurse wrote in her report that Littler “did not sound low in mood or anxious” and was “not anxious, agitated or tense” even though he told her: “I just don’t want to be here. I just want to go to sleep and not wake up.”
He also ended the assessment by becoming severely distressed and hanging up the phone after the nurse kept pushing him to explain why his GP was giving him monthly prescriptions when he had previously tried to take his own life.
Among the other lies in the report, the nurse described how he climbs the stairs in his house by holding one of the bannisters and a crutch when he told her that he climbs them on his backside.
And she said his tongue and eyes had swollen up just four times in seven years when he actually told her his dog had woken him up more than 130 times after sensing that his tongue was starting to swell.
Littler told Disability News Service that he felt “completely let down by Atos, the DWP and the whole assessment process in general”, which he said was “seriously flawed” and had increased his thoughts of self-harm.
He said: “After hearing horror stories for years about fraudulent Atos nurses and reports I’m shocked and stunned that they are still continuing to do these reports, and I feel that they should never be allowed to do these reports ever again or be awarded any future contracts.”
An Atos spokesperson said: “We have a robust complaints process for anyone dissatisfied with their consultation report.
“In this case, our investigation found the report did not meet our high standards and action was taken with the health professional involved in this regrettable incident.
“We have apologised and arranged for a new consultation with a different health professional.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We support millions of people with disabilities every year and our top priority is that they receive a supportive, compassionate service.
“The department is clear that assessment providers should strive for 100 per cent accuracy and we want every report to reflect a high-quality functional assessment that the department can use to make benefit entitlement decisions.
“We have set performance guarantees and a threshold for unacceptable reports for providers, and, in this case, we welcome the decision by IAS* to rearrange the consultation for the individual in question.”
*Atos carries out assessments under the name Independent Assessment Services (IAS)
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