DWP must boost risk management on
health test contract
17 August 2012 | Adam Leach
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) must “enhance and
develop” the risk management capability in the management of its
contract withAtos Healthcare, the National Audit Office (NAO)said.
The disclosure by the spending watchdog was in response to a letter from Labour MP Tom Greatrex, who
had raised questions over the department’s handling of the contract. Under the deal, Atos carries out health
checks on individuals applying for benefits. Greatrex claimed it did not represent value for money to the
taxpayer and in an interview with the BBC accused the department of “failing to hold Atos to account”,
which is disputed by the DWP.
In response to the MP’s letter, head of the NAO Amyas Morse said the DWP had made improvements to its
governance arrangements for the contract, but highlighted the need for further change. He said the
department itself had identified the shortcomings in September last year and has been working to address
those. But, he said, they do not go far enough.
The issues it found in relation to the performance of Atos Healthcare included exceeding the agreed target
of the number of customers sent home without being seen for every month between November 2010 and
January 2012. It also found the processing time dropped below the target of 35 days in 2009, and for a
short period in 2011.
The NAO concluded while improvements had been made, there are still a number of issues with the
contract, such as “uncertainty” over how the department evaluates the quality of medical assessments
within the governance of the contract. The watchdog also called for improvements to the risk management
process and called for routine validation of information provided to the department by Atos.
DWP has rejected the claim that Atos has been allowed to underperform due to lax governance. A
spokesman said: “Delays have not been allowed to go on without action being taken. Since Atos was
awarded the contract to deliver medical assessments, there has been a significant amount of change which
has had an impact on the speed with which they have completed assessments.”
SM is awaiting a response from Atos Healthcare, which told the BBC it had worked closely with the DWP to
address changes to the deal and fulfil contractual obligations.