Tag Archives: fit for work

US Healthcare Firm Takes Over From GPs To Treat Workers On Sick Leave: NHS Privatisation Is Already Happening

NHS-privatisationAs the NHS descends into chaos, a US healthcare insurance firm is quietly being installed to take over key front line services from GPs including providing certification to bosses for staff absences due to sicknesss.   In addition employers are to be given tax breaks to fund medical treatment for staff when it has been recommended by these private sector healthcare professionals.

The new ‘Fit for Work’ service is to be run by Maximus in England and Wales, the same company brought in to replace Atos to carry out the despised assessments for out of work sickness and disability benefits.  In a major embarrassment for DWP Ministers, Fit To Work was expected to launch late last year but so far all Maximus have managed is a website and a phoneline.

When the service is finally implemented employers will be able to refer staff to Fit for Work if they have been absent due to sickness for four weeks.  GPs will have additional powers to make a referral from the first day of sickness provided the period of absence is expected to last over four weeks.  The patient cannot refer themselves, although they can, at present, refuse to be referred.  What employers will make of that refusal is anybody’s guess.

Once an employee starts on Fit for Work they will be handed over to Health Management Limited, a subsidiary of the private US healthcare firm Maximus.  This will mean their GP will no longer have a responsibility for issuing Fit Notes  and a Maximus ‘Health Professional’ – not a doctor – will certificate their sickness and liaise with their employer.  The DWP are encouraging Maximus and employers to share sensitive healthcare information on patients, however the employee can refuse consent for this to happen.

Maximus will develop a Return To Work plan, based on what in most cases will be a short telephone assessment with the patient.  Ominously this plan will be based on a ‘biopsychosocial’ approach – the same quackery that has caused such heart-breaking chaos in the assessment system for sickness benefits and suggests that someone’s attitude or psychological state may be the driving factor of their illness.

Not only will Maximus now be responsible for certificating sickness, but they will also be able to recommend treatment to try and force the patient back to work as quickly as possible.  Of course because this treatment will not have been proscribed by an NHS doctor then that will mean referral to a private sector healthcare company, such as, well, Maximus.  To smooth the road, the government have decided to offer a tax break of up to £500 for employers who agree to pay for this treatment.  This really is privatisation of front line health services by the back door.

Throughout all the guidance notes for Fit For Work it is emphasised that the employee’s consent must be sought at every stage of the process.  If the employee refuses to provide that consent then all the government are prepared to say is that they will not then be referred to Fit For Work.  Whether this refusal is used by employers to attempt to initiate disciplinery action is yet to be seen.  Whether this is successful is likely to end up being a matter for employment tribunals and trade unions reps should be getting clued up on this new scheme now.

All the currently published guidance is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/fit-for-work-guidance

The Fit To Work website is now live, along with a freephone number where you can call Maximus for a chat at their expense.  You can also say hello on twitter @FitforWork

In Scotland the scheme will be run by the Scottish Government and with more details on the Fit for Work Scotland website.

Above pic from: http://www.sochealth.co.uk/links/campaigns/nhs-campaign-cartoons/

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Benefit Bullshitting Exposed By Daily Mail’s Workshy Map

daily-mail-mapYesterday’s Daily Mail Workshy map blows apart the benefit bullshitting of  the right wing press, despite their best efforts to smear hundred of thousands of sick and disabled people as criminals.

The map is based on recent figures detailing the outcomes of Incapacity Benefit re-assessments.  This is the crude computer based test carried out by IT firm Atos which has been used to strip vital benefits from hundreds of thousands of people.  This system has been justified by a relentless propaganda campaign which evoked myths of millions of scroungers, families where three generations have never had a job and whole areas of the UK ‘blighted’ by benefits culture.

In fact digging into the figures simply reveals that even in unemployment hotspots, the number of people who have been assessed as unable to work is tiny.  According to the Mail, 2,570 people in Leeds were found ‘fit for work’.  Leeds has a population of almost three quarters of a million people.  This means around one person in every three hundred was claiming a sickness or disability that they are no longer entitled to.  Even on a large housing estate this represents just a handful of people.  This number will rise as Incapacity Benefit re-assessments are not yet complete, but the figures suggest at the very most one person in 150 will eventually lose the benefit*.

And in truth most of those people are far from ‘fit for work’.  Employment Minister Mark Hoban recently revealed that 15% of ‘fit for work’ decisions are eventually judged to be incorrect – and that only includes those claimants with the tenacity, confidence, and health to successfully undertake an appeal.  Even those who do not have decisions over-turned at appeal may be anything but ‘fit for work’.  People with Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease and many other serious health conditions have all been judged able to work by Atos and the DWP.

The Daily Mail’s claim that all those found ‘fit for work’ are workshy is as contemptible in itself as it is dishonest. It is worth remembering that everybody who was previously claiming Incapacity Benefit had previously been signed off work by their own doctor and undergone a DWP medical.  Unless both GPs and the DWP’s own doctors have been lying on a massive scale, then none of these people could be considered to be in good health.

This is reflected in what little evidence is available (PDF) detailing what happens to those found ‘fit for work’, which shows that most people end up on the dole.  And it is this which shatters yet another myth about welfare reform – which is that this is about saving tax payers money.

Claimants thrown onto the dole lose around £30 a week and but this means a significant administration burden for already over-stretched Jobcentres.  This comes on top of the cost of the Atos assessments and the ever growing number of appeals – along with considerable hidden costs such as an increase on the burdens on GPs, hospital consultants and advice agencies.  This stress of these assessments alone has driven some claimants to suicide, whilst many more people have reported their health has deteriorated due to the system.

It is now a terrifying time in the UK to be both poor and in poor health.  It is not just those currently on benefits who will be affected, but anyone who falls ill or becomes disabled and has to leave their job.  And for what?  To make a fraction of a percentage of people lose around £30 a week because they are no longer quite as ill or disabled as this Government now insists they must be to qualify for health related benefits.  Rarely has such a nasty policy been carried out by any Government for such trivial ends.

*It is unclear how far through the assessment process different cities are.  As the assessments are just over half complete then the Daily Mail’s workshy map actually means nothing at all, except for demonstrating the revealing fact that no-one at the paper seems to know where Manchester is.

A ‘not fit for work’ map has been created by @Mylegalforum and published on DPAC’s website.

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