Petition Investigate Atos PIP assessments.

I am an ex Atos disability assessor with evidence, factual and anecdotal of the constantly covered problems, associated with the work of Atos on the PIP contract. Neither Atos, nor the DWP seem to think this warrants a response. I feel that anyone having to deal with Atos would argue the opposite.

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The Government should carry out a full, independent review of the standard of PIP assessments conducted by Atos.

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Government responded

This response was given on 20 June 2019

We are committed to ensuring individuals receive high quality, objective and accurate assessments and we work extensively with providers to ensure the quality of service is continuously improved.

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The department is committed to ensuring assessment providers provide the highest quality of service to all claimants when conducting a functional PIP assessment and in the preparation of claimant reports for consideration by the department.

As such, we set our PIP assessment providers challenging targets and monitor performance closely. The requirements set out in the contract are demanding and we robustly manage the providers against those requirements. Service level agreements set out our expectations for service delivery, including quality of consultations, number of days to provide advice to the department and evidence of claimant satisfaction, taken from the Claimant Satisfaction Survey. I am pleased to confirm PIP providers consistently exceed the Customer Satisfaction target of 90%.

We also set PIP providers a target for no more than 3% of the reports they submit to the department being deemed ‘unacceptable’, above which a ‘no pay’ mechanism is applied. This ensures that PIP providers focus on improving the most crucial elements of the assessment process. The Department’s quality standards for PIP assessments are published at www.gov.uk/government/publications/personal-independence-payment-assessment-guide-for-assessment-providers

There are regular meetings between senior DWP clinicians and the Chief Medical Officers of both providers. This cross-provider working guarantees consistency in the understanding and implementation of PIP strategy.

We have a relentless focus on quality and consistency, which delivers improvements in assessment quality performance. Assessment providers have ongoing assessment quality improvement plans in place which include clinical observations and procedures and tailored training and development tools.

We have developed and maintained a strong, collaborative working relationship with both Independent Assessment Service and Capita and work closely with them to further improve quality. There are a range of regular governance and monthly performance meetings to support delivery of the contracts highlighting where action is required and agreeing solutions.

Assessment providers employ quality teams who undertake an audit of assessment reports to ensure they meet the department’s strict quality criteria. The audit process confirms the information in the report is sufficiently detailed to enable the department to make a decision. An independent audit function has also been rolled out across the contracts since 2016, which is used to judge how the providers are performing against set contractual targets ensuring the advice provided to the department is of suitable quality, fully explained and justified.

We work extensively with our assessment providers to make improvements to guidance and training in order to maintain a quality service. Assessment providers engage with medical experts, charities and relevant stakeholders to strengthen, review and update their training programme. They have made numerous improvements such as increasing the numbers of Health Professionals and number of appointments available so that their service keeps pace with demand. Assessment providers strive to have the necessary geographical coverage to minimise travel time to assessment, ensuring that home consultations are provided when a claimant’s medical need requires one and mobilising their health professional workforce to move staff from areas where capacity is available.

Providers have also adopted more flexible working - encouraging staff to work longer hours, including evenings and weekends when necessary, and they’ve overhauled the way they manage their business and booking of appointments. All these improvements are having a positive effect with people waiting six weeks on average for a new claim assessment and four weeks for a DLA to PIP reassessment.

We have also made some changes to the way in which we monitor assessment provider performance. Assessment providers now have more time in which to complete assessments and return reports back to the department. This gives assessment providers greater flexibility to obtain further evidence, ensuring as much relevant information as possible is considered and allows more time for scheduling appointments that suit both the assessment providers and claimants.

Whilst we have improved the PIP service regularly, with a dedicated focus on claimant experience and quality of assessment, we understand that further improvements can be made. Therefore, we have created a Health Transformation Programme to coordinate and deliver the necessary changes over the coming years and to move to an integrated assessment service from 2021. One of the team’s objectives is trialling the use of video recording of PIP assessments and the results of the trial will determine the next steps.

The department and its PIP assessment providers remain dedicated to making continuous improvements increasing the trust in the system going forward.

Department for Work and Pensions.

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