Image by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty via Flickr
In early September 2011, ATOS Healthcare, a subsidiary of French IT firm Atos Origin, quietly made it known that they had joined forces with University of Derby – Corporate to accredit training for Atos Nurses. Since then there has been nary a whisper on the subject; not from anyone other than the few disability campaigners and some of our supporters. Most disturbing of all is that the medical establishment itself has been heartbreakingly silent along with the media.
I was able to raise the issue via email with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson around the time of the last discussion of the Welfare Reform Bill. She is keen to bring this up in the Lords, but unfortunately the nature of the process is such that the “ideal” moment to query Lord Freud about this has yet to arrive. In the meantime, Atos continues to add to its already sizeable coffers with more government contracts – now inclusive of digitising NHS records.
The lives of people with disabilities is hard enough with Atos & the WRB; but this programme is just the latest insidious manoeuvring by the coalition government & opposition to *not* help as many people as possible. Staying quiet or low-key makes medical establishment complicit in what’s going on. My own personal concerns aside, Atos is gathering strength in taking over responsibilities and functions best left under the auspices of the NHS: the NHS which is jettisoning much-needed hospitals, doctors and nurses no thanks to David Cameron & Andrew Lansley‘s austerity cuts; the NHS which also now has our Big Society Prime Minister peddling charity-driven measures to “improve NHS Nursing”; the NHS that the coalition government is privatising despite the outcry against “reforms” that weren’t on the agenda during the General Election.
As if the hatemongering rhetoric against disabled people wasn’t enough, anti-NHS muckraking has reached epic proportions in some parts of the media. It surely can’t be a coincidence that the tabloids only now seem to care about disabled patients being “let down” by the system when not otherwise castigating us as scroungers and frauds? As usual the great and the good in the great British public rush to agree with incessant horror stories, failing to understand the implications of the NHS being able turning over 50% of its beds to private care in England. Of course this has the enthusiastic backing of private health insurers and big charities salivating as they pontificate about the necessity of overhauling medical and social care, with the latter being little more than a sequel to the already inadequate “Care in the Community” model.
The good news is that least two prominent Twitteratti in the medical establishment don’t seem to think much of #ATOSUni – a good sign! One is GP and recent Twitter connection @PeteDeveson. Dr. Deveson was kind enough follow my account and share my last #ATOSUni Update post with his colleagues Anne-Marie Cunningham and Mary McCartney. Dr. McCartney is the GP who sensationally added to the Atos maelström with her British Medical Journal feature “Well enough to work” in which she investigated the ethics and fairness of the disability assessment process.
In addition to the support of Dr. Deveson, Dr. McCartney assured me via Twitter today that she will be looking into the #ATOSUni programme next month. Suffice it to say that as the next Lords sitting of the WRB is 11th January and the Welfare and Employment Conference 2012, featuring Department of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, takes place on 26th January, Dr. McCartney’s much-needed investigation will be not a moment too soon.
Mary McCartney - Twitter