bigleyma is thinking…

ATOS and the surprising bounce

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A FOI response from the DWP to a Ms Blair-Jordan dated 5th November 2010 stated the following:

“The clinical examination results are structured according to the findings of evidence based medical research carried out by Atos Healthcare to determine the functional consequences of specific clinical signs.”

This paragraph followed the defense of the phrases used to construct a medical history of the claimant, detailing the ways in which they had been ‘quality assured’ and deemed relevant. They claim to have subjected the material to accredited panels and that it was agreed in consultation with what was formerly Corporate Medical Group (now DWP Health & Benefits Division). Mansel Aylward was leader of the Corporate Medical Group, a post he seems to have left to take up the UNUM funded post at Cardiff.

Mansel Aylward

“led the Corporate Medical Group on the UK Government’s Welfare Reform initiatives and made a major contribution in establishing the new postgraduate diploma for doctors in Disability Assessment Medicine.”

As I would very much like to examine this primary research I emailed ATOS Healthcare on 22nd July to request identification of it. I imagine such an important piece of research must have been widely disseminated and peer reviewed considering the bearing it has on people’s wellbeing.

My email:

Dear Atos Healthcare,
In a FOI response to a request for information regarding the Work Capability Assessment it states that the structure underpinning it is derived from “evidence based medical research carried out by Atos Healthcare to determine the functional consequences of specific clinical signs”. I assume that this research has been subject to the usual academic rigours and has been published widely, being such an important work. Can you therefore provide the context in which this has been done, point towards editions of journals etc containing these findings, in which peer review and scrutiny took place.

With thanks,

Their response:

Thank you for your e-mail below. I can confirm that I have forwarded your Freedom of Information Act request to the appropriate Freedom of Information Officer who is

Commercial Management of Medical Services
Department for Work and Pensions
Room 306
Block 3, Norcross
Norcross Road

Any further communication regarding this request should be sent to them.

Yours sincerely

Gemma Bowes
Customer Relations Manager

Now this is interesting on two points. First it was not a FOI request, though I reference one. I was requesting info about medical research, you know stuff that is published in medical journals, at conferences etc, material that should be available academically. I have academic access at the moment and would like to scrutinise it.
Secondly when I received my second letter from the Correspondence Team in response to my letters to Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling I was advised to contact ATOS Healthcare with my concerns (and not ministers presumably). Their full response, along with my letter to Grayling, is in the ‘Talking to thisgov section of my blog.

So, it seems I have been ‘bounced’. The gov have bounced me over to ATOS, ATOS have bounced me over to the gov. Like a hot potato.

I will, of course be writing a follow-up email to ATOS highlighting their misunderstanding of the purpose of my request, which concerned material generated independantly by their company and which had nothing to do with the DWP. It is claimed to be medical research and I want to know who carried it out and where it was published. I may be surprised and the ‘Commercial Management of Medical Services’ at the DWP may provide this. We’ll see.


My follow-up email to ATOS, sent today 23rd July:

Thank-you for your response. I feel, however that you have been misled somewhat by my reference to FOI. What I in fact was requesting was information about your company: ATOS Healthcare’s, evidence-based medical research which underpins the Work Capability Assessment.

The DWP state, and I quote:

“The clinical examination results are structured according to the findings of evidence based medical research carried out by Atos Healthcare to determine the functional consequences of specific clinical signs. “

Therefore there exists, whether in journal form or reports from conferences or other material a body of published medical research carried out by ATOS, accessible through academic access, if not publicly. Especially in such an important area as Public Health research must be impartial and withstand academic scrutiny. I wish to be informed of what this research consists, researchers involved, methods, conclusions drawn etc. The research was conducted by ATOS and has nothing to do with the DWP. It is a very straightforward request. If the research exists please direct me towards it, or explain why it is unavailable.


Their response, 25th July 2011:

Thank you for your enquiry. Further to the action taken by my colleague, Gemma Bowes, I can confirm that any enquiry related to an area of Atos Healthcare’s Business is a FOI. Under the terms of our contract with the DWP, CMMS (Commercial Management of Medical Services) are responsible for dealing with such requests.


Lesley Hemingway
Customer Relations Team 

I am only seeing muddy waters over this, and can only think that this is what happens when the corporate is mingled with the public/state. Why should the fact that a company has a contract with the DWP prevent it from releasing the sources of its research? Why does it fall to the DWP to release these sources of research through FOI? It seems as if ATOS have had written into its contract that they should be shielded from any analysis of their practices.



Decided not to wait for Atos’ forwarded FOI request to the DWP – did it myself ^

We’ll see how that pans out by no later than 26th August. I am so looking forward to getting to grips with Atos’ research and seeing how they link underlying medical pathology with functional capabilities! This must be some huuuuuge body of work to cover all those conditions, physical and mental, providing evidence for all the precise differentiation of categories, the strengths of the various ‘capacities’ within them and the subtle nuancing required for interlinking between condition and functionality. Some body of research that, like.


Written by bigleyma

July 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

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