Atos assessor 'forced to judge disabled fit for work'

A former nurse who was employed by the controversial capability assessor Atos has claimed she was forced to manipulate tests so that disabled people were deemed fit for work.

Joyce Drummond alleged she was warned by the French-owned firm she was being "too nice" to claimants. She said candidates were considered more able to work if they arrived for their interview with brushed hair, had a toddler with them, or wore make-up.

Ms Drummond, a former staff nurse at Glasgow's Southern General Hospital, said bosses ignored her 20 years of medical experience. She told the Daily Record: "People trusted me and they confided in me. I felt I was having to stab them in the back."

A recent investigation by The Independent revealed that more than 40 doctors and nurses working for Atos have been reported to medical regulators for professional misconduct.

Anyone who claims employment and support allowance because they are too sick or disabled to work must pass a work capability test, designed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) but conducted by one of Atos's 1,400 staff. The company has £3.1bn of government contracts.

Ms Drummond, who resigned from the company three-and-a-half years ago, said: "If a woman was wearing make-up and was nicely dressed, she was deemed as functioning and capable.

"If someone came in with a toddler in tow, if they could manage a child, they could surely work. If someone had a pet, they were able to function and if they smiled while talking about a pet, I had to mark down that they smiled spontaneously and were therefore not depressed."

Atos healthcare said the claims were completely unfounded, and said Ms Drummond was not involved in conducting ESA assessments but worked on other "unrelated" assessments.

A spokesman said: "Our trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists use their clinical knowledge and apply the Government's policy and criteria to each assessment. They look at a number of factors based on the individual and using the Government's questions and descriptors to provide detailed information to the DWP."

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