Double heart bypass patient in post-operative intensive care is sent Government letter ordering him back to work
- Danny Shurmer, 60, was recovering in Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital
- Had benefits withdrawn and didn’t win an appeal until nine months later
- Controversial Work Capability Assessment carried out by ATOS
By William Cook
PUBLISHED: 12:48 EST, 8 November 2012 | UPDATED: 16:18 EST, 8 November 2012
// A heart patient was told he was fit for work – just a day after a double heart bypass operation.
Danny Shurmer, 60, received the letter from a healthcare firm working on behalf of the Government as he recovered in the intensive care unit of Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.
His is one of a number of cases in which sick and disabled people have been ordered back to work under the Government’s controversial Work Capability Assessment.
The former welder, from Gaerwen on Anglesey, is among more than 2,000 people on sickness and disability benefits in North Wales who have been ordered back to work after their cases were re-assessed.
Mr Shurmer said: ‘I was in intensive care when my daughter came in with the letter. I was shocked. Even the consultant could not believe it.’
Mr Shurmer’s employment and support allowance (ESA) – a benefit which has replaced incapacity benefit – was later stopped. It was only restarted after he went to a tribunal.
He was given the ‘fit for work’ bombshell weeks after a medical examination by doctors from French healthcare firm ATOS, which carries out the Work Capability Assessment on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions.
Mr Shurmer, who didn’t win his tribunal until nine months after the withdrawal of benefit, had three more bypasses in July this year at the same hospital.
He was examined again last week by an ATOS doctor and is awaiting a decision.
Asked whether he is optimistic or not, he replied ‘God knows’.
The Government ordered fresh assessments on thousands of people claiming incapacity benefits back in 2010.
Charities have voiced concern that the the Work Capability Assessment is unfair.
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope said: ‘The latest figures released showing the number of people found ‘fit for work’ need to be taken with a large pinch of salt. There remains an alarming dossier of evidence that the Work Capability Assessment is a deeply flawed test.
But DWP statistics show 41% of claimants have appealed against decisions on their benefits after the tests, with 38% having previous decisions overturned. Factoring in these successful appeals would significantly lower the number of people found ‘fit for work’.
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough face to face assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant at the time.
‘We encourage people to provide as much medical evidence as possible when they apply for ESA. There will inevitably be a period of time between someone’s assessment and them receiving their letter.
‘Since 2010 we have considerably improved the Work Capability Assessment process, giving people a more tailored and personal service. If someone disagrees with the outcome of their work capability assessment, they have the right to submit new evidence and appeal.’