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Atos quits fit-to-work scheme

Atos has quit its contract for the controversial ‘fit-to-work’ scheme that resulted in a significant increase in paperwork for GPs, the Government has announced.

Under the scheme – which will continue – claimants applying for Employment Support Allowance had to take a work-capability assessment led by Atos on behalf of the Government, to see how their disability or illness affects their ability to work.

As part of the assessments, GPs were often inundated with requests from Atos to complete forms on behalf of patients for the claims, a Pulse investigation revealed last year.

Disabilities minister Mike Penning said the scheme would continue, with a new company set to be appointed in early 2015. Atos will be providing the service until then.

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Mr Penning said the Government was looking for a provider to replace Atos ‘with the view to increasing the number of assessments and reducing waiting times’.

Ursula Morgenstern, chief executive of Atos UK & Ireland said: ‘We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Government to allow us to exit this contract early and we remain committed to delivering essential services to the UK Government as a strategic supplier.’

In response to Pulse’s investigation last year, the Department for Work and Pensions said: ‘It is important that we are able to make decisions on an individual’s benefit entitlements with accurate and up to date information, and sometimes this will require medical evidence from a claimant’s GP or other healthcare professionals.’

‘GPs have been clear that they do not want to be responsible for making decisions on peoples’ benefit entitlement, which is why we have processes in place to request the appropriate information from GPs to enable us to make those decisions.’