While applying for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), many individuals will take part in Work Capability Assessments, which are carried out by Atos Healthcare on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.
All Work Capability Assessments are carried out by healthcare professionals who are specially trained and have achieved set accreditation standards. Please read on to find out more about the training that each Atos Healthcare professional will have undergone before taking part in the assessment process.
Atos Healthcare professionals and their training
Each Atos healthcare professional taking part in the Work Capability Assessment process will have received training in three distinct areas, enabling them to conduct assessments and prepare reports that are then used by DWP decision makers when assessing claims made for ESA.
These three areas are:
Generic training – includes, for example, principles of disability analysis, professional standards (including manner and behaviour) and multi-cultural awareness.
Training to undertake benefit-specific assessments – includes learning path approach for ESA and other benefits, assessments, modular training with competency testing at each stage and approval process.
Scrutiny / filework training – includes provision of advice to decision makers when appropriate on the basis of available documentation within a customer’s file, as well as theory and casework exercises, followed by supported individual casework.
And, following completion of the Work Capability Assessment training course, which is accredited by the University of Derby, healthcare professionals will, for a variable period, complete assessments under the continual supervision of an experienced trainer.
Only when they are deemed to have achieved competency will a health care professional progress to unsupervised assessments. At this stage, every assessment that they carry out is audited, until they routinely produce ‘A’ grade reports, meaning that their reports have reached a high standard.
At this stage, the healthcare professional will be referred to the Chief Medical Adviser at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for approval on behalf of the Secretary of State. Following approval, audits are ongoing, but at a reduced frequency.
Training in response to external factors and research
Atos Healthcare’s Continuing Medical Education (CME) programme is continually being developed in response to both external factors and internal research.
In the case of external factors, healthcare professionals will receive relevant training in response to changes in legislation, changes resulting from decisions made by the Social Security Commissioners, and alterations in procedure or the wider medical community.
Training in response to internally generated initiatives
In the case of internally generated initiatives, Atos Healthcare regularly updates healthcare professionals on current best practice, often in response to issues that have been identified as causing some difficulty to the decision maker or customer.
The data derived from Atos Healthcare’s auditing processes is also used extensively as a source of information to help to determine the content and priorities for the CME programme. The annual CME programme is discussed and agreed with the DWP.
Training in medical topics is based on up to date, critically evaluated research published in the world literature and, wherever possible, is evidence based.
All training that takes place is developed collaboratively with and signed off by the DWP, including independent expert review.
How training is delivered
Different training media are employed according to circumstances. These range from formal trainer-led sessions to the issue of bulletins and guidance notes.
Other media are employed, including CD-ROM and video.
Trainer-led sessions are designed to promote participation by trainees by the inclusion of interactive elements and case examples.
In 2010, a National Training Event was held for all employed healthcare professionals in preparation for IB (IS) Reassessment. Expert independent speakers presented and answered questions on a range of topics, such as Cognitive Impairment, Chronic Pain, Fatigue and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
How we record training
Each Atos Healthcare practitioners training is recorded in their individual professional record and these records are collated into a centrally held database.
Please continue to check our blog for more information, as we will soon be blogging about how we quality monitor and audit the work of our health care professionals.
In the meantime, if you would like more information on the Work Capability Assessment, please read our blog posts on what to expect before, during and after a Work Capability Assessment, what to do if you are admitted to hospital while applying for ESA and how we are working to improve processes following guidance from Professor Harrington’s first and second independent reviews.
Atos Healthcare: Disability Assessments Staff Training