1 February 2012

How to deal with Benefits medical examinations

How to deal with Benefits medical examinations
Doctors were hanged at Nuremburg for following Nazi party racial theories and participating in medical experiments. Unfortunately Dr Mengele, the most notorious of them all, escaped the noose.

I’m not suggesting that ATOS doctors deserve to be hanged but a dose of their own medicine would be apt. Hard work for peanuts down a mine might help them understand the effects of illness and the ability to work. But just like the doctors who approve of and participate in making inmates at Guantanamo ready for torture (a practice that Israel has also adopted via the Israeli Medical Association) so ATOS doctors abandon their Hippocratic Oath and owe their first loyalty to the state rather than of those they treat. In that sense ATOS doctors also share the same mentality that Nazi doctors operated under.

Below is an excellent guide from the Edinburgh Autonomous Centre for those undergoing medical examinations and the first lesson is never go in alone.

Tony Greenstein


This leaflet describes how claimants for disability benefits can deal with the medical examinations by medical professionals, which for many claimants are central in deciding whether or not you are entitled to disability benefits.


The examinations are run by Medical Services (MS) which is operated by the private company ATOS on behalf of the Benefits Agency. Before a MS examination your own GP sends info to the Benefits Agency. It is important that this info is as full as possible and states clearly whether or not in their medical opinion you are fit for work at that time and in the forseeable future (at least 6 months ahead).

It is frequently the case that people with a long-term illness gradually minimise in their own minds the effect of their illness on their everyday lives and develop survival strategies to cope on a daily basis in an attempt to lead as normal a life as possible.

This can cause a problem as this habit when taken into a medical examination does not present a true picture of the illness and could be misleading. It might be helpful to discuss the reality of your illness and the limitations it imposes on your life with someone who knows both the illness and yourself well. The reality of your illness is what must be presented to the ATOS medical professional and to the DSS.

If you have a Medical Services examination, either at the MS office or at your home, always have someone accompany you. This is your right. We have often done this. They cannot refuse you this right - if they try then just insist you need someone with you.

To obtain benefits you are legally required to attend this examination, and the information obtained at the examination is used, within a legal framework, to decide on your benefit entitlement - it is therefore vital to make sure your legal rights are protected.

If the date for the examination is not suitable, eg your accompanying person cannot make it on that date, you can get the date changed. If you are unable to travel to the examination you can ask for a home visit instead. If you change the arrangements over the phone write to confirm the changes. You have the right to be seen by a Doctor of the same sex.
Meet the accompanying person beforehand to discuss what's going to happen. Before the examination you should be clear that -

- the examination can be halted to allow you to go to the toilet, have a glass of water, take a pill, or if you feel faint or ill. The examination should only proceed if you feel happy to continue.

- you should refuse to do anything that hurts or distresses you.

The person accompanying you should take a pen and paper and also a watch. If possible, take a tape recorder. Peter Mathison, then Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency, has stated that the taping of medical examinatons can be carried out. Take your medicines, and any aids you use, such as a walking stick or crutches.

You can claim travel expenses for going to the examination - but if you need to take a taxi you must contact the MS beforehand.

You should be aware that the examination begins on entry to the examination centre and does not end until you leave the centre. An evaluation of your medical condition does not only take place when you are in front of the examing medical professional, but also potentially on your way into the building, in the waiting room, and on your way out. They could note the length of time you can sit without apparent discomfort, how you pick up your bag, etc..

At the examination the medical professional should be:

courteous and considerate.

Spend some time explaining the purpose of the examination.
ASK if you are willing to be examined.

Ask you and give you time to explain YOUR OWN VIEW of how you are affected by your condition, including how it affects your ability to do day to day tasks like shopping, cooking, cleaning and so on.

The medical professional should not attempt to 'manipulate' parts of your body.

During the examination you should
Make sure the medical professional realises the full extent of your illness/ disability, including any other conditions/ illnesses you may have. Remember, unlike your GP, this medical professional does not know your medical history.

Describe how you feel on a "bad day", rather than on a "good day".

If you are accompanying a claimant, then you should

Write down the name of the medical professional, their qualification eg if they are a nurse, doctor or physiotherapist, the place of examination, the time of starting and finishing the examination.

Take notes on everything the Doctor and the claimant say, what the Doctor asks the claimant to do, what happens. Especially note any aggressive attitude or manner adopted by the Doctor. Note the exact words spoken.

Intervene and ask for the examination to be halted if the claimant becomes unwell or distressed. The claimant should have a break until they feel well enough to continue.
Object to and stop any attempt by the Doctor to have the claimant do exercises which could injure or distress them. You should have the examination stopped if the claimant is becoming ill or distressed for any reason. If the claimant is not fit to continue then the examination should be postponed until another day.

If the claimant's distress is due to mistreatment by the doctor, stop the interview, then say that you will be making a complaint with a request for an examination at a future date with a different medical professional.

Time the length of the examination and any breaks taken (some medical professionals have been known to exaggerate the length of time of the examination to make it appear more thorough than it was).

At the end of the examination ask the medical professional to read back their notes, to check they made an accurate record. If the medical professional refuses, then note that and what reason he/she gives for refusing. If there seem to be any inaccuracies in the notes, check with the claimant, then if necessary ask the Doctor to change their notes. If they refuse then make a note of that, writing down exactly what they said.

If the medical professional did anything wrong, then as soon as posible afterwards write a letter of complaint to BAMS and to the DSS - don't wait for the decision to come through. The letter should be signed by both the claimant and the accompanying person. There is more info on making a complaint in the Disability Rights Handbook (Disability Alliance), or contact us.

Even if you don’t score enough points under the personal capability assessment – the medical test to decide if you’re incapable of work – you may still have a chance of being found incapable of work either at claim or appeal stage. This is because of the little known ‘exceptional circumstances’ rules.

There are a number of these, but probably the most important is regulation 27(b), which states that you will be found incapable of work if:
‘there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if he were found capable of work’’
This regulation could apply to you on physical health or on mental health grounds.
For example, if you experience severe anxiety attacks and might harm yourself or somebody else if placed in a situation you find threatening, then this might be grounds for applying regulation 27(b).

Or you may have a lung condition which is made much worse by stress and, in the past, such situations have led to a serious deterioration in your health and perhaps hospitalisation. If you would find being found capable of work, having to sign on for Jobseekers Allowance and take part in training or work experience very stressful, then that may be grounds for declaring you incapable of work under the exceptional circumstances regulations.

However, neither doctors nor decision makers are quick to identify people who might be covered by these clauses. And very few claimants even know they exist.


ATOS are currently recruiting more staff to help meet Government targets to force more people off disability benefits to reduce the public debt problem caused by banks gambling in the financial markets. The process is driven by cost cutting not objective medical opinion. The most vulnerable in society are being made to pay for the greed of others and the inevitable booms and busts of capitalist economics.

Medical professionals, including physiotherapists, with no experience of mental health problems, for example, are only given a matter of days training before making assessments of claimants. They are paid substantially more than NHS doctors and nurses for leaving their ethical concerns at the door. ATOS claim that they do not make the decision as to whether someone can work and have their benefits reduced, but that the decision is made by the DWP from their report and that performance targets are based simply on the number of claimants seen in a day. However they admit that if a medical professional passes all claimants for disability benefits it will not go unnoticed.

We encourage and aid claimants organising together, and linking up with workers in employment, to oppose and take action against these government policies. Why should we put up with a system where everything is run for the profit of a rich elite? Why shouldn't society's resources belong to everyone, and be used for people's needs?

You can view or download the user instructions for the ATOS Lima computer assessment here:


is based at the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh (ACE), an open campaign space, infoshop and wholefoods co-op, providing resources and solidarity. Resources available include computer/internet access, cheap copying, free leaflets, books, pamphlets and mags for sale, a small wholefoods shop, and a library.

Every tuesday from 12 noon till 3pm advice and solidarity is available for benefits and debt hassles, housing and other problems. Please contact us at Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty c/o ACE, 17 West Montgomery Place, Edinburgh EH7 5HA 0131 557 6242 ecap@lists.riseup.net We invite you to join our solidarity phone tree, and get involved.
ACE is also open every Saturday 11am-6pm and Thursday 6-8pm, and other times for particular events (but the advice sessions are only on Tuesdays).


  1. People might be interested in the psudeo-medical science and disgusting medical ethics that lie behind these on-gong welfare reforms aimed at Britains long term chronically ill and disabled patient community.
    Here is a recent article by a good internet buddy of mine -
    Illness as ‘Deviance’, Work as Glittering Salvation and the ‘Psyching-up’ of the Medical Model: Strategies for Getting The Sick ‘Back To Work’.
    by Gill Thorburn
    Democratic Green Socailist
    Jan 2012

    Just to say that these "functional" assessemnt carried out by Atos on behalf of the DWP aren't medical assessments, as they are often erroneously decribed as. They ignore medical science and medical expertise of specialsist in the NHS such as consultants and GPs. They ignore pain and suffering. They ignore basic medical ethics of treating patients with sympathy and compassion but instead hold them in suspicioun and disbelief.

    The GMC and the Nursing & Midwifery Council and also the BMA have done absolutely nothing about the widespread allegation of medical abuse and even criminal fraud being praciticed by the medical staff of Atos and the DWP. The Nazis had a good term for the behaviour of professions that easily, silently and without fuss implimented and carried out new government policies, "Glieschaltung".

  2. I'd just like to pass some more info critical of the British medical professions' on-going collusion with the government's welfare reforms, which are an abuse of the long term chronically ill and disabled community of Britian.

    Below is correspondence with Atos and the professional British medical organisations and journals. The last letter is the most important and I include the other 2 so it makes more sense. Just to say, it basically cricises the complete lack of morals and ethics of the British medical professional regulatory bodies and organisations with regards to the DWP, Atos, ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and the WCA (Work Capability Assessment).

    First, here is John McArdle of the Black Triangle Campaign (also based in Edinburgh same as the organisation which produced the guide to the benefit medical examination which, as we all know, has nothing to do with medicine) explaining the background to these open criticisms of the British medical profession and which, to my knowledge, have yet to see the light of day in any of the profession's journals such as Pulse, the BMJ etc -
    Just not working: Why government fit-to-work tests are failing
    The Scotsman
    21 Jan 2012

    Correspondence as follows -
    27 Sept 2011

    Atos reply from Keith Wilman dated 10 Oct 2011 (3).pdf
    Google docs

    Response to our open letter and Atos’s reply to the BMJ:
    Black Triangle Campaign
    21 Nov 2011

  3. The brilliant Artist Taxi Driver -
    Mister ATOS: the truth
    You Tube
    03 Feb 2012

    Shot to bits. Fit for work -
    Man shot with a 44 Magnum, two heart attacks and a stroke declared “fit for work” by Atos – Private Eye
    Black Triangle Campaign
    26 Jan 2012

    Terminally ill. Fit for work -
    Terminally-ill man offered `return-to-work’ advice
    Hamilton Advertiser
    09 Jan 2012

    In a coma. Fit for work -
    Yep- it has finally happened (or near enough).
    rightsnet discussion forum
    17 Jan 2012

  4. I have to go for one of these medicals, i have hiv and got it from being raped by 3 men, i have post traumatic stress,panic anxiety, and to top all that i have side effects from the drugs daily and ive been left with fits and blackouts on a daily basis, im scared to go out alone,but i still have to go for a medical, i am so stressed over this its made me ill,i scared they going to stop my only income, i have someone with me every day to help me,God what am i going to do im in such a state.Do they not see that this is making people worse.

    1. Surely if you arenot able to realistically get to their assessment centre then they must come to you. I am facing my first assessment and am terrified already. I read above about minimizing the effects your illness has on you and it is so true. I don't understand why the government is targeting those who really can't work when there are so many who claim benefits and have jobs or falsely claim for looking after someone and things like that. I have been off work on and off over the last 3 years when it got to the stage of a capability hearing so I left because i didn't want that on my record. I wasn't (and still am unable) to do the job and i seriously question whether i will be able to fully explain my symptoms etc. I am in the process of being assessed for fibromyalgia and i have diabetes, bladder problems, limited movement in my left arm and chronic pain in my shoulders, neck, arms and hands as well as pain throughout my body and a skin condition that leaves me often with open sores and abscess type lesions. I am in pain all the time, struggle to do housework let alone anything else oh and i suffer with depression too. I am really saddened to feel my integrity is being questioned. I have wracked my brain trying to think how i would work and what type of job i would be able to do. I would love to work but who would want to employ someone who maybe has 3 good days in every 15? Anyway i am really glad i found this advice as i will be using it to help get through this ordeal!

  5. This is a government without feeling
    I have to face this medical in two weeks I have no faith in Atos and am
    sure I will lose my benefits despite being medically retired from Royal Mail after 18 years with a small pension!Don't qualify for j.s.a because of this I'm 61 and am scared stiff.

  6. The Doctor (he said he was a real Doctor and he the prefix Dr) was courteous and asked all the right questions and I was happy about it. He seemed more clued up about head injuries and PTSD than my GP. I am looking to get better so it was only a help really. My tests were serious enough for him to write to my GP on a standard form. The implication ws I needed further treatment. I have not yet seen his Report. I should have asked for his qualifications and I hope I might be able to do this later. I still got the jitters before and after though. I do not know if the signs could be read?

  7. hi i passed a medical and reg 29 and 35 were apllied [vascular dementia]should i apply for pip? thank you


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