Is the new Health and Work Service designed to address medical incompetence and taxpayer malingering?
Posted by admin
David Hencke has been reporting that Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud has awarded a contract to Health Management Ltd, subsidiary of US multinational company, Maximus. Doctors will no longer decide when patients should return to work after 4 weeks’ sickness absence.
The company’s press release reveals that this system will first be introduced in Wales, the Midlands and the North. The Scottish government has declined to contract out the work to the private firm and will keep the assessment programme as part of the public service.
Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud is quoted in a DWP press release emphasising how the scheme will improve economic productivity and get people back to work faster. This ‘high quality new service’ will enable employees, GPs and employers to manage sickness absence better.
It is predicted that the new Health and Work Service will cut sick pay costs to business by £80 million to £165 million a year, as well as increase economic output by up to £900 million a year.
Employees on sick leave will be helped to return to work by providing them with an occupational health assessment when they reach, or are expected to reach, more than 4 weeks’ sickness absence. A case manager will phone to support each employee through the service’s assessment process to ensure their level of need is correctly identified along with appropriate steps to take to get them back to work. A return to work plan will be shared with their employer and GP.
Effectively it will mean you will get a telephone consultation from a call centre and be emailed when you should return to work. If you don’t co-operate you will lose your benefit.
Remembering how disabled people were forced to find work or lose benefits by the French company ATOS, Mr Hencke suspects that that this new system could push the sick back to work before they have recovered.
To read his two articles and his investigation of the working conditions of Maximus’ employees, go to David Hencke’s website.
In 1986 Hencke was Westminster Correspondent covering both Whitehall and Westminster. He won three awards for investigations – the most serious being into the ”cash for questions” scandal which led to the bankruptcy of Ian Greer Associates and reporting the secret undeclared £373,000 home loan given to Peter Mandelson by fellow Treasury minister, Geoffrey Robinson. After working for the Guardian, he moved to the new Fleet Street based Exaro News, a City financed website, covering Whitehall, politics, the City,media, local government and tax issues. He and Francis Beckett (co-authors of ‘The Blairs and Their Court’, are now researching a new book into the Blairs’ post 2007 careers.