Posts Tagged ‘Cancer’

From 2011: Private Eye on Atos Throwing the Severely Disabled Off Benefits

April 11, 2014

This is from Private Eye’s edition for the 9th – 22nd December 2011.

ATOS

Unfit For Purpose

The government’s proposal to stop GPs writing sick notes for long-term illness and hand the work to “independent assessors” has private companies rubbing their hands. Bit it has alarmed those who far that patients will have to endure the same type of tick-box assessments as those needing benefits, as carried out by Atos.

The huge French service company has been slated by MPs and charities over its health and capability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, leading to wrong decisions in up to 40 percent of cases and causing “fear, anxiety and distress” to many disabled people.

Now an Atos insider tells the Eye that, under pressure from government to produce figures showing the number of claimants coming off benefits, coupled with competition to run the multi-million-pound contract, the situation may get worse. In the past 12 months a number of experienced doctors have left the company because they no longer want to part of a “target-driven” system that they say is unfair to the claimants and compromises their professionalism. One said it was “immoral”.

They have not apparently been replaced, and most medical assessments are now carried out by n8urses, who are less expensive – but would have fewer skills in musculo-skeletal disorders or mental illness, two of the main causes of disability.

For those who have been assessed by Atos, the result can be devastating. Secretary Debbie, 44, has been unable to work since a brain haemorrhage 14 years ago left her needing regular nerve-blocking injections into the head and intravenous drug treatment. She suffers from excruciating headaches and is partially sighted.

Her consultant detailed in a letter how her “excruciating” chronic cluster headaches and migraine were rated by the World Health Organisation as “one of the most disabling chronic disorders”. In August she saw an Atos assessor – a doctor, not a nurse – who appeared sympathetic. However, Debbie and her partner say the assessor then made false statements about the examination, saying an eye had been carried out when it hadn’t and bizarrely alleging that she self-harms, which she says she has never done.

The DWP then told Debbie her incapacity benefit would be replaced by employment support allowance (ESA) and that she must attend work-related activity group meetings (WRAG) seven miles from her home. If she fails to attend she will lose her benefits. She told the Eye: “my consultant, my GP, everyone says there’s no way I can work. I can’t see very well, I bang into things, I can’t even make a cup of tea without spilling boiling water. I can’t travel unattended … Yet according to Atos I’m able to work.” Having lost her appeal against having to attend the activity group, Debbie is to file a formal complaint about the Atos doctor to the General Medical Council.

Similarly, in April 2009, Mike, a 52-year-old academic, was found to have a brain tumour the size of a squash ball after he collapsed and had a massive seizure. Six weeks of radiotherapy reduced its size, and Mike has remained stable – although he relies on strong anti-convulsants to keep epilepsy, seizures and focal fits at bay – and is exhausted after short periods of mental or physical activity. Two months after the diagnosis he was ordered to attend an Atos assessment and was found to be capable of work.

Mike has found that the DWP had hidden information showing that people with terminal illness, like him, should not have had to undergo such an assessment, and that any assessment that does take place should be by an expert. But it took him two years of appeals to obtain his entitlements. His battle for compensation continues.

This confirms the other reports that Atos are instructed to find a certain percentage as fit for work, in order for them to be thrown off benefits. I’d also come across elsewhere the information that some of the doctors initially involved in the assessments had left because of its immorality and unprofessionalism. And from my own experience and those of some of the commenters here, and the reports of other bloggers like Jayne Linney I know that Atos lies and falsifies its medical reports to get the results it desires.

There is some useful information here for those seeking to challenge Atos. The article’s statement that terminally ill people should not have to undergo assessment may be of some help to some of the others challenging their assessments. Atos has a long history of declaring medically capable of finding work people so tragically afflicted. Jayne Linney has suggested that as many as 55,000 people a year may have died after being assessed by Atos. If only a small proportion of these were diagnosed as terminally ill by their doctors, then it means that Atos has been massively in breach of regulations. Which is probably why bloggers such as Mike over at Vox Political have been refused this information, and denounced as ‘vexatious’ by the DWP for daring to do so.

From 2011: Private Eye on the Boycott of the Paralympics because of Atos’ Sponsorship

April 10, 2014

atoskillsgraf

There was huge outrage in 2011 and 2012 at Atos’ sponsorship of the Paralympics, because of the company’s vicious, punitive and cruel treatment of the disabled claimants it assessed. Private Eye reported on this in their issue for October 28, 2011.

Paralympic Boycott

What A Bunch of Atossers …

Disability campaigners are calling on athletes to boycott next summer’s Paralympics in London in protest of the involvement of Atos, the French outsourcing company.

Atos has been slated by MP’s, charities and others over its dire record in carrying out health and capability assessments for those on disability benefits – getting it wrong in up to 40 percent of cases and causing “fear, anxiety and distress” to may disabled people. Instead of ensuring that better assessments are carried out in the first place – perhaps by ending Atos’ multimillion contract – the government is proposing to axe the benefits of anyone who challenges an Atos decision during their appeal.

One person who would lose out is Jenny, 59, who worked as a teacher in state schools in Yorkshire for almost 40 years. When her son was born with profound disabilities she worked part-time so she could care for him. But then she developed fibromyalgia, a chronic condition affecting muscles and connecting tissue, involving severe pain, fatigue and spasms.

When she became incapable of caring for her son as a young adult, he had to be admitted to a care home. She finally gave up part-time teaching in 2009 after collapsing and is now unable even to use a keyboard. Whit her GP’s backing she received some disability living allowance – until last May, when Atos decided otherwise. She is appealing an Atos doctor’s claims to have examined her and found no muscle spasms or joint swellings, saying he didn’t even look at her hands, where her swollen joints were clearly visible.

Atos claims it contract is to look at what people can do, rather than diagnosing a condition. “For this reason, a thorough physical examination is not necessarily appropriate,” it said. Whit is why, no doubt, Atos has been accused of turning down people with advanced cancers and severe mental illness – and why it loses so many appeals.
These tribunals are estimated to cost up to £50m a year – paid by taxpayers and not out of the Atos budget.

That is why Scottish-based disability group Black Triangle and others are angry that Atos is running the IT for the Paralympics. The group claims Atos decisions and actions have been identified as factors at 16 suicide inquests in recent years. Indeed, the group was set up after the death of the Scottish writer and poet Paul Reekie, who left no suicide note but instead – according to campaigners – laid out a letter informing him his incapacity benefit had been stopped.

The response of Atos to such criticism has been to resort to m’learned friends. Black Triangle said it had to relocate its web server to Iceland after its original Facebook page was closed down. Phil Lockwood of Black Triangle said: “Although we respect all those athletes who wish to take part, they should be aware that ATos may use the event as a propaganda exercise.”

I put up a later piece from the Eye yesterday about Atos, which reported that a tribunal upheld Jenny’s appeal. The appeal judges found serious flaws and inconsistencies in Atos’ account, and in the end relied on information from Jenny’s doctor instead. Unfortunately, this does not affect Atos general policy of treating the poor and disabled with absolute contempt. Stilloaks has blogged a list of 45 people – who have either taken their lives or died in misery and grinding poverty through the company’s decision to declare them fit for work. Other bloggers, such as Jayne Linney, have suggested that as many as 55,000 people per year may have died after being assessed by the company. The true figures are unknown as the DWP refuses to release them after requests have been made under the Freedom of Information Act. And the bloggers, who have tried to obtain these facts, like Mike over at Vox Political, have been accused of being ‘vexatious’ by the Information Commissioner instead.

As for Atos, I know from my own personal experience and that of the people commenting on my blog that Atos lies and distorts the truth. I’ve even reblogged a video from a nurse, who worked for the company, on the way they were told to adhere to guidelines telling them what percentage of claims should be turned down. This is disgusting, and it’s high time the whole Work Capability Assessment was scrapped.

Atos Gets 150,000 Complaints from GPs and Blames the DWP

February 24, 2014

This is another piece on Atos that I’ve found on Youtube. It’s a report from Sky News, put up on the 18th October 2013, revealing that doctors have officially complained about the extra workload they are being placed under by people, who have been declared fit for work by Atos. They also reveal that the Citizens Advice Bureau had received 150,000 complaints about Atos. The report also covers the case of Mr Cowper, a man dying of cancer, who was nevertheless found fit for work by Atos. Mr Cowper is only one of tens of thousands. The precise number is unknown because the government repeatedly refuses to release the figures, claiming that such requests are ‘vexatious’. See the relevant posts over at Vox Political on Mike’s attempts to get the figures out of them.

Atos, however, are complaining that they have been victimised. Their vice-president, Wayne Gibson, turns up on the programme to state that they were working for the government for fifteen years with no protests. They feel that they have been scapegoated for the government’s policies.

Now I was first thrown off benefits when Blair/ Brown were in power. If I remember correctly, there were strong articles about Atos in Private Eye even then. Furthermore, the company cannot pass the blame wholly onto the Government. They chose to bid for the contract and administer the tests. No-one forced them. If they had an moral objections to the work, they could simply have withdrawn their services. Or, if their health care professionals are as highly trained and skilled as they said, they could have sought to change the test itself. They did not. Now I think the company is right in that the DWP must also share the blame, but this does not, by any means, excuse them.

If you want to see the video on Youtube, it’s at ‘Atos Gets 150,000 Complaints, Atos say DWP to Blame’ at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GwUSa63tX0

Another Angry Voice on Cameron’s Failure to Honour Nuclear Test Victims

February 20, 2014

David Cameron Divisiveness Nuclear Test Veterans

The Angry Yorkshireman has posted up another excellent article, ‘David Cameron and Divisiveness’, on Cameron’s refusal to recognise and honour the sacrifice and suffering endured by the thousands of British servicemen, who took part in nuclear tests. The article begins

In February 2014 David Cameron outright refused to recognise the sacrifices made by some 10,000 British military personnel that were exposed to intense levels of radiation during the 1950s and 1960s.

These men were ordered to do things like watch nuclear detonations at close range, fly aircraft through mushroom clouds, handle radioactive materials and explore blast zones, all with no protective gear.

Many hundreds have died of cancer and other radiation related illnesses but this isn’t even the most horrifying legacy. Due to the genetic damage these men sustained, the families of many of these men have been affected by birth defects, meaning that the legacy of suffering is continuing down the generations.

Many other countries have begun to recognise the suffering inflicted on their military personnel due to radiation exposure, but the United Kingdom steadfastly refuses to offer recompense to our nuclear veterans.

A pressure group of victims and their families called Fallout has been calling for some recognition for the nuclear veterans and their families, but their concerns have been stonewalled by the government.

The Fallout campaign group have asked for the creation of a £25 million benevolent fund to help descendents that are born with genetic illnesses, a campaign medal for nuclear test veterans and a “thank you” from the Prime Minister.
The government have refused to engage with the group, and David Cameron has refused to even publicly thank the surviving veterans, perhaps out of fear that the the slightest hint of recognition would be the first step on the path to awarding these men compensation, which would hardly be unprecidented given that the United States government have been compensating their nuclear test veterans.

David Cameron’s excuse for refusing to acknowledge the nuclear test victims is teeth grindingly bad, even by his appalling standards. Here’s what he said:

“It would be divisive to offer nuclear test veterans this level of recognition for being involved in this project, when those who have undertaken other specialist duties would not be receiving the same.

The full article is at http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/david-cameron-and-divisiveness.html. It’s well worth reading.

This clearly is less of a reason than an excuse. The Irate Yorkshireman then goes on to show how it would not stop other servicemen, who have performed equally dangerous duties, from also demanding fair recognition for their sacrifices. He also states that Cameron’s statement is based on the same logic that saw the members of the Arctic Convoys to the Soviet Union during the War denied a medal for their great contribution to the war effort.

The Yorkshireman concluded:

The refusal to even thank these men, and David Cameron’s ludicrous “divisiveness” narrative are yet more demonstrations of the absolute contempt the Tories and the establishment classes have for the disposable “lower orders”.

This is undoubtedly at the heart of Cameron’s refusal to acknowledge their suffering – an aristocratic contempt for ‘commoners’ that sees them purely as cannon fodder, whose purpose is to obey without question their superiors, who must not be criticised for their mistakes, incompetence or indifference to the suffering of the men and women they command.

I also think there’s slightly more to it than that.

Opposition to Nuclear Power

Firstly, it strikes me that Cameron is probably afraid of reviving the remaining, smouldering anti-nuclear feelings. The nuclear industry is, after all, big business, and Cameron’s government has done its best to encourage further investment in nuclear energy and the construction of nuclear power stations. The French nuclear power company, that has been strongly supported by the British government in this, is due to start building another power stations at Hinckley point in Somerset, for example. The last thing the government wants is more protestors standing outside parliament, their council office and the power plants themselves waving placards and pointing to the possible health risks and dangers of nuclear power.

Fears of a CND Revival

Similarly, it also seems to me that Cameron is afraid of the lingering shadow cast by CND in the 1980s and 1950s, and the legacy of the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common. There is still considerable opposition to nuclear weapons despite the reduction in nuclear arms after the collapse of Communism and the ending of the Cold War. A little while ago there was some controversy when the government decided that it was going to acquire a few more, upgraded nuclear missiles for Britain’s defence. I doubt very much if Cameron and the rest of the Coalition want a revival of CND and more protestors camped outside British military bases.

Damage to Reputation and Wallets of British Government, Military and Civil Servants

Most of all, I suspect that what Dave and his party really fear is the possible damage to the reputation of past politicians and civil servants, and claims for compensation from the victims of the tests and their families. British officialdom’s culture of secrecy always appeared to me to have a very strong element of the ruling classes trying to protect themselves and their pensions from criticism and attack from the people their decisions have harmed. By acknowledging the sacrifice and suffering of these servicemen, it strikes me that Cameron is also afraid this would mean that the government accepts, if only partly, its responsibility for their legacy of health problems and the congenital diseases passed on to their children. This could lead to claims for compensation, possible prosecution of the politicians, civil servants and senior military staff behind the policy.

Polynesian Victims of Nuclear Tests

Such dissatisfaction and litigation would not just be confined to British servicemen. I believe that some of the Polynesian islands, where the British tested their nuclear bombs were inhabited before the tests. Their indigenous peoples were forcible removed from their homes. The intense levels of radioactivity left by the tests has meant that they cannot return. They are permanently exiled from their native soil and the land of their ancestors. It is possible that Cameron fears that if he acknowledges the debt the government owes its servicemen for their part in the nuclear tests, these indigenous peoples would also raise embarrassing and expensive demands from the British government for the suffering they have endured through displacement and exile from their destroyed island homes.

Unethical Nuclear Testing on Civilians in America and Possibly Oz

I also wonder if Cameron is also afraid that questions about the activities of the British military for experimentation on its servicemen would stop there. IN the 1990s when the American files on nuclear testing were fully opened to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, it also revealed some highly unethical and monstrous experiments by the American armed forces and their civilian masters on the poor and disadvantaged, including those from ethnic minorities. I remember reading an article in New Scientist about this, circa 1995. The article reported the case where an Indian woman was taken into what she believed was a specialist hospital for treatment for her condition. In fact it was a secret nuclear facility, and the scientists were actually injecting her with radioactive material in order to test its effect on the human body. I’ve also got a feeling that some of those involved in this project may, like so many other scientist, have come from the Third Reich. There were also allegations a little while ago in Australia that the British and Aussie authorities used severely mentally retarded people as test subjects during nuclear bomb tests Down Under. Others have looked into this and found that there is absolutely no evidence that these people were used in this way. Nevertheless, there is the lingering question of whether the British civilian and military authorities also carried on similar, unethical experiments in the general British population.

Germ Warfare at Porton Down

And not just nuclear experiments. Questions have also been raised about the biological warfare experiments conducted by Porton Down. These have included injecting servicemen with a potentially lethal disease, which the troops were told was merely influenza, in order to test the possible results of biological warfare. They have also released various strains of ‘flu into the general population in order to research the progress of germ weapons through the British population. At least one person may have died as a result. As with the victims of the nuclear tests, this raises issues of the morality of the experiments themselves, the ethical culpability of the scientists administering the tests and the military and civilian authorities responsible for them. The victims of these tests may also possibly be liable for compensation in the same way as the victims of the nuclear tests. They also raise the same questions about what other experiments went on under secrecy at Porton Down.

Acknowledgement of Soldier’s Role in Nuclear Tests Raises Doubts about Culpability of Entire Establishment in Nuclear and Biological Experimentation

This is what Cameron clearly fears is divisive: the possibility that, simply by acknowledging the sacrifice and suffering of the military victims of British nuclear testing and their families, he could be opening the door for further questions about the government’s wider nuclear policy for defence and energy, questions and possible claims for compensation and prosecution by the Polynesian peoples, whose homes and traditional way of life has been destroyed by imperialist militarism, as well as possible demands for the investigation of germ warfare experiments by Porton Down. And behind those is the issue of whether even further, darker, and completely immoral nuclear and biological experimentation has been carried out by the British government on its poor, disabled and non-White, as was done in America.

And worst of all, there would be immense damage to the reputation, careers and pensions of the senior military officers, civil servants and MPs responsible for this, as well as the commercial damage to the firms that manufactured these weapons. And in Cameron’s rarefied world of aristocratic and upper middle class privilege, that’s the real threat. We really can’t have the proles questioning their superiors and putting them on trial, can we?

More Material for the Grotty Squalid Picture Show, Alias Daily Mail – the Musical!

October 6, 2013

Just to prove that writing songs satirising the Daily Mail isn’t confined to people on Youtube, and outraged pop singers, I’ve found a few more pieces in which actors, journalists and celebrities express their utter contempt for the Mail.

The Mail doesn’t only run extreme Right-wing stories attacking immigration, the Left, the welfare state and single mothers. It is also known for regularly trying to scare everyone to death with articles about how just about everything under the sun will give you cancer. Here’s Russell Howard, the stand-up man from Keynsham, spoofing this aspect of the Heil’s journalism.

That’s at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4abk9fd_lR4.

And here’s Steve Coogan talking about why he chose the Daily Mail as Alan Partridge’s favourite newspaper because it has the requisite pomposity and little Englander bile Newsnight, with Paxo and Louise Mensch.

.

That’s at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvGVCKIvwL4.

Have I Got News For You, the BBC’s long-running satirical, also attacked the Daily Mail’s hypocrisy in printing stories about paedophiles, while at the same time also running admiring articles commenting on the appearance of underage, teenage girls.

That one’s at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKzgDBumCr0.

Spinal Tap and Science on BBC Radio

June 18, 2009

This is just a couple of notices about a few items on the radio next week that people might find interesting.

Firstly, 80s rockers Spinal Tap are on BBC Radio 2 at 10.00 pm Saturday night, 20th June 2009, on the programme Back from the Dead: the Retu of 187 ap. The real-life documentary-maker, writer, and failed drummer, Peter Curran, is interviewing the three mock Rock legends, David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) about the launch of their new album, Back from the Dead, which really is being launched, and the accompanying tour. The BBC Radio Times for next week also includes a piece of mock, Rock journalist interviews with them. The mock rockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap is one of the classic rock films, so the programme this Saturday could be fun.

Also, next week from Monday to Friday on BBC 3 at 11.00 pm, there’s a series on great scientific experiments, The Essay: Strange Encounters. Tuesday’s programme is on the great solar storm of 1859, which produced spectacular displays of aurora and knocked out the emerging telegraph service all over the world. Wednesday’s programme is on Peyton Rous’ experiments that demonstrated that cancer can be caused by viruses. Thursday is about the discovery of radio waves by Heinrich Hertz. Friday is on the great ‘flu pandemic of 1918. The first programme, on Monday, is particularly interesting as it’s on the search for spontaneously generated life in 17th century Tuscany.


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