Posts Tagged ‘Mental Function Champions’

Mental function champions: their role in the WCA

We know that people with mental health problems who are going through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) are often concerned about whether their illness will be properly taken into account.


The WCA is carried out by fully-qualified, experienced health professionals who are trained to assess people with a variety of conditions, including mental health.

As part of ongoing improvements to Work Capability Assessments, we have mental function champions to assist our health care professionals when carrying out an assessment of a person with a mental health condition.

The role of the mental function champions is to spread best practice and provide advice and coaching to health care professionals at any stage in a referral to us from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). They do this in a variety of ways. They can provide specific advice to health care professionals by phone and in person at both the initial scrutiny stage of a referral and in relation to a face-to-face assessment. They provide ad hoc skills transfer depending on the needs in their area. They also see people face-to-face like any other health care professional.

What are their qualifications?


The mental function champions are all qualified clinicians who have at least three years post-registration experience. In addition, they have postgraduate clinical qualifications and/or experience in psychiatric practice as well as an ongoing interest in this area of medicine.

All health care professionals undergo a regular random audit of their work to ensure it meets the required standard.

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The role of mental function champions in the Personal Independence Payment assessment process

Many people who claim DLA and those who are expected to claim PIP experience both physical and mental challenges.  The diversity of mental conditions means that even though our health professionals are trained to assess people with all conditions, Atos-Healthcare-PIP-Mental-Function-Champion-health-professional-femaleincluding mental health conditions, they may still require support regarding less familiar conditions. All Health Professionals (HP) are fully qualified in their health discipline and all receive training in disability assessment which includes specific training in mental health conditions.

Mental Function Champions (MFCs) are experienced Health Professionals who have direct and relevant work experience of helping patients with mental health problems and who can advise the HP on any aspect of the effects of mental health conditions on someone’s everyday life.

What is the role of a Mental Function Champion (MFC)?

  • To offer advice and support for health professionals in dealing with people who have mental, intellectual, cognitive and developmental disabilities.
  • To identify and highlight training needs for individual health professionals.
  • To keep up to date with best practice and management of mental health conditions. They maintain a portfolio of their readings to demonstrate this.Atos-Healthcare-PIP-Mental-Function-Champion-two-men-in-discussion

What are their qualifications?

  • A PIP MFC will have at least two years’ postgraduate experience in a clinical role involving the management of patients with mental health problems, learning disability or cognitive impairment. For example: a mental function champion could be a registered mental health nurse or learning disability nurse. Many are highly experienced with 10 years’ experience or more.
  • They will have completed intensive Atos Healthcare training, a separate course covering mental health, the training materials for which are reviewed by the DWP
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The Work Capability Assessment: Improvements we have made to support our customers

Atos Healthcare - a group of people chatting - mental health improvementsBack in 2010 the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) asked Professor Malcolm Harrington to carry out an independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

As part of his review he made a number of recommendations which Atos Healthcare has accepted and implemented on the ground.

We have made changes which help our customers understand the assessment process better and we have helped our staff to share their experience and expertise in supporting customers with mental health conditions.

So what improvements have we made?

Our Customer Charter

In 2011, we created our Atos Healthcare Customer Charter. The Charter includes a number of commitments we make to our customers. They are the guiding principles that we follow when we carry out each and every WCA.

Atos Healthcare Customer Charter

Our Charter set out 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

Customers with mental health conditions

We have put in place a network of Mental Function Champions to spread best practice across the business and offer advice and coaching to other professionals carrying out WCAs.

We invited leading external experts in mental health to help us shape the role for the Mental Function Champions, and we now have 60 Champions.Atos Healthcare - The Work Capability Assessment and our Customer Charter

They work alongside our healthcare professionals, supporting them in a range of different ways. They offer specific advice by phone and they’re on hand to help out in assessment centres.

The Mental Function Champions have made a big difference. They renew their skills and knowledge on a regular basis and are building positive relationships with local mental health teams.

Still more to do

We have made some significant improvements since Professor Harrington’s first report came out in 2010. But we aren’t stopping there. A second report was published last year and a third is due towards the end of 2012. We’ll continue to support Professor Harrington’s work and will carry on making improvements to ensure the part of the ESA process that we deliver is as straightforward as possible for all our customers, especially those who need the most support.

See also:

Update on Professor Harrington’s year 1 Recommendations

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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.

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