Update on Professor Harrington’s Year 1 Recommendations

In November 2010, Professor Malcolm Harrington published an Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment. In his report he made a number of recommendations for improvements, some of which were aimed at the part of the process carried out by Atos Healthcare. We accepted and supported the recommendations and immediately put plans into place to implement them.

Ahead of Professor Harrington’s second report, due out this week, we thought it would be useful to summarise what has been achieved to date for each of the recommendations. Today we will cover the Customer Charter and Mental Function Champions. And tomorrow, we will cover the personalised summary statement and piloting audio recording.

The Customer Charter:

Introduced, following the Harrington Report 2010

We published the Atos Healthcare Customer Charter earlier this year. It was developed together with a team at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who also brought their knowledge and experience of customer communications having designed the DWP Customer Charter.

Customers can see the Atos Healthcare Customer Charter on prominent view in all assessment centres and they can also access a copy online.

The Customer Charter clearly communicates our commitment to:

• Carry out fair, accurate and objective assessments on behalf of the DWP
• Treat all our customers with respect
• Provide access to assessments appropriate to customer needs
• Protect personal information
• Use fully qualified and approved healthcare professionals

It also outlines:

• The responsibility of the customer
• The different channels for customers to provide us with feedback

Apart from publishing the Customer Charter, we continue to look at the information we provide to customers through leaflets, posters and our website and we often take the opportunity to update them if we find a better way of helping customers to understand the assessment process. Customer feedback is very helpful in this respect.

Mental Function Champions:

Formally introduced, following the Harrington Report 2010

In his report, Professor Harrington recommended that Atos Healthcare should provide mental, intellectual and cognitive champions who should spread best practice amongst healthcare practitioners.

We had previously made informal use of the expertise in mental health held by a number of healthcare professionals in our organisation to spread best practice. The recommendation provided a good opportunity to formalise and extend this role. We invited some leading experts in mental health to help us to define the detail behind the role and we quickly identified the first group of “Mental Function Champions”. They attended a refresher training course to make sure they all had a consistent base of understanding. A leading mental health charity gave us a valuable external perspective as part of the training.

We then identified and trained more groups of mental function champions until we had a full set of 60 by the end of summer.

There is sometimes a misconception that Mental Function Champions are there to assess all customers with mental health conditions. However there never has been a requirement to assess specific conditions using practitioners with matching professional experience, either in mental health, or other conditions.

The role of the Mental Function Champions is to spread best practice and provide advice and coaching to healthcare professionals at any stage in a case. They do this in a range of ways. They provide specific advice to healthcare professionals by phone and they are regularly available in the assessment centres and the larger centres where initial filework assessments are carried out, before the customer has an appointment made.

They also provide ad hoc training and skills transfer – depending on the needs in their area.

Now that Mental Function Champions are in place, they will continue to update their subject expertise through continuous professional development.

Professor Harrington’s second independent report will be released on November 24, 2011. To find out how we have accepted, supported and implemented his initial recommendations ahead of this report, please continue to check our blog for more information.

Tomorrow, our blog will cover the personalised summary statements and how we have piloted audio recordings of assessments.

See also:

Update 2 on Professor Harrington’s Year 1 Recommendations

Harrington Report: Training, Quality Audit and Consistency

Third Harrington Review of the WCA: the next stage of the journey


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