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Lanarkshire NHS subcontracted by Atos for disability assessment

In a twist of outsourcing, benefits assessor Atos has subcontracted Lanarkshire NHS to carry out consultations in Scotland.

Lanarkshire NHS’s occupational arm Salus will carry out assessments of people for the new disability benefit, personal independence payment (Pip), which is due to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) from 2013.

Salus will receive £22m to carry out work until July 2017.

Atos has come under significant criticism by charities and claimants for the lack of accuracy and sensitivity in their assessments. However, some have raised concerns over the value for money of outsourcing work first to a private company, then back to the public sector.

Atos Healthcare said: “This is a new approach, working in partnership with NHS Lanarkshire. It means that consultations will take place where people feel most comfortable – in the heart of their local community – and they will be conducted by health practitioners that have first-class expertise in dealing with the needs of disabled people.”

Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of the British Medical Association's Scottish general practitioners committee, said: “There have been concerns raised about the dramatic increase in the numbers of patients being assessed as fit to work by Atos previously and a large number of successful appeals have been made against these decisions. Hopefully, we will see a reduction in the number of patients who feel that an unjust decision has been made.”

But Anne McGuire, the shadow minister for disabilities, said: “There are questions to be asked about the effectiveness of using a private sector intermediary between a public sector organisation and a public sector organisation. It is at least unusual. It begs the question, why DWP didn't contract direct to Salus?”

The DWP said: “Atos were selected following open and fair competition and were assessed against established and published selection criteria including value for money. We think its right that Atos will be working with local NHS services, which have roots in their local communities and will provide familiar surroundings for people who are going for consultations.”

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