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Man who suffered heart-attack declared ‘fit for work’


12:11 pm - March 27th 2013

by Shantel Burns    


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A 55-year-old man who complained of chest pains during an Atos assessment – and then suffered a heart attack the following day – has been found ‘fit for work’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Jim Elliot, a father from Cambuslang near Glasgow, says as well as suffering from chest pains, he was also struggling to breathe during the 20-minute interview. The assessors provided Mr Elliot with a glass of water but persisted on with the assessment.

Jim, who had formerly been a welder for his entire adult working life, had to cease work 18-months-ago after he suffered a heart attack. Speaking to the Daily Record Jim said: “All they seemed to care about was getting through the ridiculous list of questions they have […] ‘Can you walk 200m and can you raise your arm up in the air?'”

Jim added: “I was sweating profusely, my breath was very laboured and I had been confused during the interview.”

The next day, whilst walking down Glasgow’s west end, he suffered a heart attack.

Mr Elliot was rushed to the Golden Jubilee hospital in Clydebank where he spent the next several days recovering.

During his stay in hospital a letter from the DWP arrived at his home stating that he had been found ‘fit for work’ as he had scored zero points. An individual is only deemed as unfit to work if they score 15 points or more.

Atos has previously (and continuously) been the subject of criticism for its flawed work capability assessments, the high rate of cases that go on to tribunal (41%) and the number which have the decision overturned in their favour (38%).

The government’s own figures reveal that 1,300 people had died after they had been told they should start preparing to go back work, and a further 2,200 had died before their assessment was completed.

An Atos Healthcare spokesman, in response to Mr Elliot’s case said: “The role of our doctors and nurses is to carry out work capability assessments on behalf of the DWP under their guidelines and not to conduct a thorough medical examination.”

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About the author
Shantel Burns is a News Editor at Liberal Conspiracy, and a publishing and journalism student and current affairs nerd. Blogs at: ramblepolitics.blogspot.co.uk too.
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Reader comments


“An Atos Healthcare spokesman, in response to Mr Elliot’s case said: “The role of our doctors and nurses is to carry out work capability assessments on behalf of the DWP under their guidelines and not to conduct a thorough medical examination”

Which is a PERFECTLY reasonable explanation for what happened. The symptoms of a heart attack can look exactly like stress or an anxiety attack (neither of which would be a particularly surprising reaction to a WCA exam) so what – exactly – was Atos and DWP supposed to do differently?

Indeed, he didn’t have the heart attack until the NEXT DAY!

They’re not clairvoyant, you know…

“so what – exactly – was Atos and DWP supposed to do differently?”

A man who has a heart attack 18 months previously is clearly at risk of another one, particulaly if being put through a stressful situation.

So if a man, with a history of heart trouble, starts showing the same symptoms of a heart attack the responsible thing to do is stop the stressful situation and give the person a medical exam.

Secondly it is absurd – and you fucking know it – for someone with a history of heart trouble to score ‘zero’ points. That this situation keeps happening with alarming frequency should inidcate to even the stupidest person that the assesment is flawed and should be scrapped forthwith.

A quick look at this mans medical history – without him even being there – should be enough to determine that he aint making it up.

“what – exactly – was Atos and DWP supposed to do differently?”

If you mean that ultimate responsibility lies with the government, not strictly speaking DWP and Atos, yes, it does.

But Atos do not have to participate in this hideous and immoral activity. Neither do their employees, or those of DWP.

Mr Elliott scored zero points during his assessment. The minimum score required for a person to be deemed unfit to work is 15 or more points. Thousands of people who have been through such assessments have been deemed unfit for work although the precise figure is difficult to find.

The fact is Mr Elliott was not one of them at the time of his assessment, with a score of zero points, but was still informed he ‘may’ be eligible for jobseeker’s allowance.

This does not seem to be a border line case, although it’s possible that once his new medical condition is confirmed, and he appeals, he will achieve the 15 points he needs.

6. David Heffron

To be fair to Atos, they look past the disability and see the man within. If the world was more non-judgmental as Atos, wouldn’t the world be a better (and less populated) place.

7. the a&e charge nurse

“we (ATOS) can confirm that if our doctors or nurses detect evidence of a serious medical condition in anyone being assessed they take appropriate action such as calling an ambulance” – so does this imply that the standards are so dire amongst ATOS automatons, sorry, I meant assessors that they fail to recognise the cardinal features of unstable angina?

Many lay people, let alone any health professional worth their salt would be concerned if a 55 year old man with a background of myocardial infarction and coronary stenting was ‘struggling to breathe, sweating and had chest pains’ – especially in Scotland, the heart attack capital of europe.
http://www.scotsman.com/news/scots-have-highest-uk-death-rates-from-both-heart-disease-and-cancer-1-835957

Does an ATOS contract exempt medical staff from their usual pastoral duties toward those who develop a serious health problem?

8. Shatterface

But Atos do not have to participate in this hideous and immoral activity. Neither do their employees, or those of DWP.

Without this hideous and immoral activity Atos wouldn’t exist.

The DWP however, could find other ways of harassing people.

An absolute disgrace.

The sooner this evil system is changed the better.

There are totally sick people suffering because of this inept and unfair assessment system.

How on earth anyone can defend it I don’t know. It’s sickening, some people really can’t have any conscience.

@Keith R: Frothing UKIP voter or frothing UKIP voter?

11. Helen Speed

I have been through this process myself (and thankfully, now I am in a position to work) of the interview with the “doctor”, the 0 score and the appeal.
Some of the questions you are asked seem to have no relevance to your health condition. I was suffering with depression and anxiety at the time and struggled to leave the house without having panic attacks.
I was asked : Are you able to do your own washing?
-Fair enough question for someone with a physical complaint.
If I have a pound and spend 83p, how much change would I have?
-I asked if he was checking my health or my intelligence.
Do you watch tv? What sort of things do you watch?
There were many more ridiculous questions and the doctor never looked me in the eye, he was staring at the screen and keypad.
They don’t even ask your own GP, it’s as if they don’t trust an NHS doctor, who has known your health for years.

Oh and they stop your benefit immediately if you score under 15, so if you are sick, you’ll be a lot sicker when you starve to death.
The day I was interviewed there was a lady who had 4 strokes and was deemed fit to work.

12. Grant Bingham

It’s all most as if a silent, legalized genocide is in it’s making.

Look under The Geneva Convention act 1948 under genocide Article 2 (A) and it looks as if this Tory Led Government is almost there but it appears that you can inflict : (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of certain groups to your own countryman without it being classed as genocide such as what is happening regarding this Government and ATOS.

This Government knowingly allows this situation with ATOS to continue with the full knowledge that people are suffering, dying and committing suicide as a result of their actions/policies.

Surely this Government has a legal duty of care to stop what is going on with ATOS because it is causing thousands of people to needlessly die. This Government could put a stop to this situation today but chooses to sit back and do nothing whilst more and more sick, disabled and vulnerable people suffer and die. That to me, is what I would consider a crime.

Article 2

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html

I could go on but it worth you looking under The Human Rights Act !

13. Grant Bingham
14. Shatterface

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

None of these apply.

I’ve had six Atos examinations, the first 5 for a bipolar condition first diagnosed when I was in my teens (i.e. about thirty years ago) and the latter after a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome which had previously been undiagnosed because the symptoms had been largely masked by the symptoms of depression (selective mutism, affectless speech and social withdrawal being easily mistaken for depression, routine behavior being easily mistaken for OCD, etc.).

The actual diagnostic process was spread over three months and involved examinations by speech therapists as well as autism specialists: Atos thought a non-specialist could assess me in 20 minutes. They also believe their assessment is valid for just 18 months because they don’t understand the concept of life-long conditions.

So I despise Atos as much as anyone.

But this is absolutely not fucking genocide. This is bureaucracy, not an attempt to exterminate people. It trivialises genocide to expand the definition this way so you can shove your black triangle up your arse.

15. James Notts

ShatterFace @ 14

Read Grant Bingham’s @ 12 comment again because he said : It’s almost as if a silent legalized genocide is in it’s making.

He later goes on to say that : This Government knowingly allows this situation with ATOS to continue with the full knowledge that people are suffering, dying and committing suicide as a result of their actions/policies.

Surely this Government has a legal duty of care to stop what is going on with ATOS because it is causing thousands of people to needlessly die. This Government could put a stop to this situation today but chooses to sit back and do nothing whilst more and more sick, disabled and vulnerable people suffer and die. That to me, is what I would consider a crime.

Grant Bingham did not actually say that it was a genocide. Learn to comprehend what people are writing you fool.

Sure you did not go to ATOS for a job interview and got a bit confused because you had a hangover !

16. Chaise Guevara

@ James

Yeah, but then he goes on to imply that it is genocide anyway. And why even raise genocide other than due to the desire to be ridiculously melodramatic? It’s cruel and callous, but it’s not genocide.

17. Charlieman

I do not have a strong opinion about whether Jim Elliot was treated badly by Atos Healthcare or by the UK government Department for Work and Pensions. Based on the reports, I believe that Mr Elliot has been treated badly. But I cannot choose between the two to assign blame for his problems.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the DWP genuinely needs to judge whether claimants are able to work. DWP has contracted evaluations to Atos Healthcare, and because Atos Healthcare is a contractor, results have to be measured. It is likely that many Atos Healthcare workers are sub-contractors, so individuals being assessed are at least two contracts away from the government agency, the DWP, who will use the information. The problem is not just two contracts but the requirement that Atos Healthcare and their workers are paid by results.

Nobody owns any problems. On the Atos Healthcare web site there is a helpful link (sic): Email DWP enquiries team. If you disagree with an Atos Healthcare care decision, contact DWP; however, DWP did not conduct the assessment and are not responsible.

If Bob Smith tries to rob a shop, he may legally be restrained by a by-passer before the coppers take control. If Bob Smith has a mental health problem, he can be sent to hospital on the word of an appropriate doctor and social worker (don’t analyse too hard; both are simple examples rather than law). The point is that Bob Smith is being “controlled” by authorities who have been given particular legal powers.

Atos Healthcare is a private company which is contracted to make decisions about the lives of UK citizens. Quite simply, it should not be their job.

18. Johny Ruskin

Is it not a crime to watch people die as a result of policies/actions when you could put a halt to it until the situation is reviewed. If hundreds or thousands of people are dying needlessly due to ANYTHING surely there is a legal duty of care ion civilized society to do something (ANYTHING)to stop that suffering.

19. Chaise Guevara

@ 18

Any time you decide whether or where to spend money on things like benefits, healthcare etc. you inevitably make a decision that will lead to some people’s deaths. Making that a crime would make politics and administration impossible.

20. Johny Ruskin

chaise guevara 19

Never before in recent times have so many people died or committed suicide because of any newly introduced policies by any government. Sure some people have died in the past and present as a result of changes in policies such as the drugs postcode lottery but never on a scale such as this in such a short space of time. My personal opinion is, yes they should put a stop on the disability changes until it is thoroughly looked into to see if they can at the least limit the amount of people that r committing suicide or dying as a result of these changes. When people r dying and committing suicide on this scale in such a short space of time something is extremely wrong and this government should have a duty of care. Maybe I am a fool but I don’t think that a review or mini inquiry would go amiss just to clear the air and give this government a chance to say ” We seriously looked into it”. At least that would show they had some heart.

Whilst this is dreadful, it is not as dreadful as Mid-Staffs.

Both involve box-ticking bureaucracy, so why is one ignored and not the other?

22. Chaise Guevara

@ 20 Johny

I agree that the policy is wrong and should be changed. I just don’t think we want a law that would basically make it a criminal offence to be in a position of political power.

23. the a&e charge nurse

Jim Elliot suffered a ‘barn door’ heart attack the day after developing cardinal features of unstable angina during his ATOS assessment. Lets not forget he had previously suffered myocardial infarction, and was known to have coronary stenting.

Perhaps it was an exceptionally dim ATOS assessor or maybe the focus on hitting covert targets (reducing the % of those entitled to certain benefits) actually prevents so called health professionals from recognising the sort of symtoms most lay people could have taken an educated about.

No doubt a climate of fear and mistrust will continue to permeate the ATOS process and this sort of case will do little to convince those subject to assessment that they are regarded (by the powers that be) as little more than scroungers waiting to be found out?


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