A mental health trust has defended its decision to carry out disability assessments on behalf of the controversial outsourcing company Atos.
Mental health service-users at four sites run by Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust have been alarmed to see Atos-branded leaflets displayed in waiting areas.
The four sites – in Preston, Ormskirk, Lancaster and Blackburn – are being used by trust staff to assess disabled people for their eligibility for the new personal independence payment (PIP), on behalf of Atos.
Atos information leaflets are displayed in the waiting areas at all four of the sites.
Thousands of people with mental distress have been found unfairly fit for work following work capability assessments carried out by Atos, and many have had relapses, episodes of self-harm and suicide attempts, and have needed higher levels of medication and even hospitalisation in the lead-up to those assessments.
One trust service-user said she had had an “awful experience” during an Atos “fitness for work” assessment, and added: “Their presence in the building increases my anxiety and isn’t helping my mental health.
“The hospital is meant to be a place of safety and a place to improve my stability and mental health. This is not the case at this time.”
Mark Hindle, the trust’s chief operating officer, said: “As a trust, we feel that we are best placed to provide these assessments as we have an in-depth understanding of the population and issues around health inequalities across the county.
“We also have the expert knowledge of both physical and mental health illnesses and the impact these can have on a person’s day-to-day living.”
He added: “The trust’s core values will ensure that people attending for an assessment will be treated with compassion, dignity and respect and involved in the assessment; as they normally would be in clinical practice.”