Atos, the company contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions to carry out medical assessments of people claiming benefits, has subcontracted elements of the work back to a number of NHS trusts in England.
The subcontracting of the NHS by Atos in Scotland prompted questions last year from MPs over whether it represented value for public money for the state to contract work to a private company if the work was then outsourced back to the state sector.
A number of NHS trusts south of the border are now reported to have been contracted by the company to help carry out assessments for a new disability benefit, the personal independence payment (Pip), which is due to replace the disability living allowance from 2013. The government aims to cut spending on the benefit by 20% over the next three years.
University College London, King’s and York will deploy thousands of health professionals to carry out the assessments, according to the Financial Times.
It emerged last October that Atos Healthcare had appointed the Scottish healthcare provider NHS Lanarkshire’s occupational health arm, Salus, to help carry out assessments for Pip.
Lanarkshire NHS will receive £22m from Atos to carry out the work until July 2017. Atos won contracts worth more than £400m in August to test whether disabled claimants were eligible for the new benefit.
Atos is receiving £238m for work in Scotland, north-east and north-west England, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
At the time, the company described its subcontracting of work to NHS Lanarkshire as a “partnership”, adding: “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.”
Atos said the supply chain model in Scotland was likely to be similar to those soon to be announced in England.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We are taking a new approach working with regional providers for a service which best meets local needs. It was open to NHS organisations to bid for a place on the health and disability assessment framework but none did so.
“We believe that it is right for Atos to partner with the NHS to offer Pip claimants familiar surroundings and experienced health professionals. The partnership proposed here demonstrated best value for money for the department and its claimants.”
Courtesy of The Guardian