NRAS response to Professor Harrington’s Year 2 Review on the Work Capability Assessment
Maidenhead, UK, 20 September 2011 - NRAS recently made a submission to Professor Harrington as part of his second review into the operation of the Work Capability Assessment. The submission focused on the issue of the quality of the Evidence Based Protocol on Rheumatoid Arthritis that is used by Atos Assessors to carry out medical assessments. We raised serious concerns about errors and omissions contained in the latest protocol relating to the characteristics, signs and symptoms of RA, and the treatment and prognosis for the disease. This includes:
• Absence of references to EULAR and ACR criteria for classifying RA.
• Failure to mention at key junctures the NICE Clinical Guideline on RA and the role of Disease Activity Scores.
• Out of date information about the range of biologics used in the treatment of RA.
• Inappropriate and misleading use of images of severe deformity caused by untreated RA when describing the general characteristics of the disease.
Jamie Hewitt, Government Affairs Manager at NRAS said: “Much more needs to be done to improve the Work Capability Assessment to make the test fairer for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The latest Evidence Based Protocol on Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of a number of problems with the current system. The protocol has serious deficiencies and needs to be urgently corrected to ensure Atos Assessors have up-to-date information about the disease. Alongside other members of the Disability Benefits Consortium, NRAS is therefore calling for more regular and transparent review of these protocols, with involvement of patient organisations in the consultation process and given appropriate input into related training information, to ensure all this information remains accurate and up-to-date.”
A full copy of the NRAS submissions can be found here
NRAS also contributed to a joint submission of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), which raised a number of other concerns, including:
• The need for the Department for Work and Pensions to be more proactive in contacting claimants’ preferred healthcare practitioner (often not a GP) to gather additional evidence. The ESA50 form should be revised to ask claimants to recommend the healthcare professional who knows them best, and to give examples of HCPs who could be named here (such as occupational therapists, specialist nurses, or community mental health worker).
• More care should be taken to provide that, wherever possible, healthcare professionals with the appropriate expertise assess claimants.
• The need to revise the WCA descriptors, in particular to implement improvements to facilitate a more accurate assessment of those with mental health conditions and fluctuating conditions.
A full copy of the DBC submission can be found here
• The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) was launched in October 2001 and in a relatively short time has become established as the campaigning voice in the UK for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
• NRAS provides a total one-stop-shop with support, information and advocacy for all people in the UK with RA, their carers and families.
• NRAS has a national volunteer network, a group of people with the disease who provide peer to peer support and provide additional resource to help NRAS in many different ways.
For more information, please contact: Jamie Hewitt, Government Affairs Manager, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society; tel: 01628 823 524