So what about the part played in this by ATOS? Again this is a bit complicated - some of the information I learned about the ATOS procedures and ethics only came to light because I decided to take my case to the General Medical Council (GMC).
To cut a long story short (hehehe even I have to chuckle at that little piece of irony!) the report submitted to DWP by Dr X bore little resemblance to the "examination" which had taken place (if you remember, asking me to stand up for 1 minute, and a gentle prod of my ankles and wrists). Don't get me wrong - this doctor had done his very best not to inflict damage or pain on me, something I am actually grateful for. But by not seeing me try to walk, or mount my staircase, or even permitting me to answer some of his questions fully, he also deprived me of the opportunity to make my case properly. And I'm afraid to say that his report was inaccurate, incomplete, and contained some fallacies. OK, in my opinion he lied.
One of my ankles is a bit puffy - has been since I was a teenager and kept turning it over at school. Accordingly, the report claimed that I walk with a limp on that ankle. Remember he didn't actually see me walk - the limp was invented. He claimed that I had no problem with our narrow and steep staircase - again without seeing me attempt it. And while my mobility scooter attracted a lot of attention, the wheelchair and zimmer frame which he twice had to walk past on his way through the hall, received no comment at all.
Other omissions were the amount of nagging Great Chief White Hair has to do to persuade me that it's time to take my medication; that he has to open jars and pots and containers for me and count them out; that he prepares my lunch and a hot flask before he goes to work in the morning, and prepares the evening meals for the family. I was awarded the tiny bit of care component only because he did report my difficulty with holding and using a knife (one of the only things we told him that actually got written down).
The most telling inaccuracy? Assumption? Fabrication? also related to my ability to walk. Here I need to deviate a little. As part of the GMC disciplinary process, Dr X was given the opportunity to defend himself in writing. Apparently he "knew" I could walk more than 200 metres with "occasional" pauses and rests, because of ATOS/DWP criteria - in short, I was not a paraplegic, and I didn't have heart or chest problems. Or, in other words, "them's the orders, guv" (my paraphrasing).
Both ATOS and GMC upheld my complaint - although the latter decision was eventually overturned. The GMC case even earned a very brief line in an article about hard-done-by ATOS doctors. While the ATOS decision was made some time before the GMC disciplinary proceedings, as I've already explained, it did nothing to help my appeal, and in fact the very next post that brought me the ATOS decision delivered the reconsideration - another aspect we found highly suspect. So what of the GMC case?
This happened some months after the financial side of things had been rectified, so the appeal hearing (and less importantly the newspaper article) were both unfair, in my opinion, to proclaim that the complaint would never have been made (by me) if I hadn't been stripped of my DLA. That's such an enormous deflection that it takes my breath away. The original sanctions laid against Dr X by the GMC when they found for me were overturned quite literally on a medi-legal technicality. He was disciplined under the section of their rulebook which deals with the doctor-patient relationship which outlines the duty of care that should exist.
The appeal lawyers successfully argued, quite simply, that in the situation we were in, when a doctor is employed by ATOS to conduct a medical examination of a patient, there is no doctor-patient relationship, nor any duty of care towards the claimant by the doctor conducting the examination.