The French data firm Atos has been awarded a new £25 million contract with the UK’s Ministry of Defence, just months after winning another £394.7 million deal with the Department of Work and Pensions.
Atos said the deal would help upgrade the MoD’s computer systems and digitise the delivery of healthcare for the defence services.
Defence ministers are embarking on the CORTISONE programme to integrate its systems and reduce costs by using off-the-shelf products, rather than expensive tailor-made ones.
Philip Chalmers, senior vice president of sales and marketing of Atos in UK and Ireland, said: “By adapting commercial industry standard products to create this suite of medical information services, the CORTISONE programme will provide the Defence Medical Services with an integrated and flexible capability that enables digital transformation in the delivery of healthcare within defence.”
Complaints over disability assessments
The Government has used Atos for several years across the DWP to assess disability benefits claimants, but has faced criticism over the number of successful appeals won by disabled Britons challenging their assessments.
Disabled people are almost twice as likely to win their disability benefit appeal than they were 10 years ago, when the Conservative government came to power. – This despite hundreds of millions spent outsourcing PIP assessments to ATOs and Capita.
The assessment process for PIP – the benefit that replaced the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013 – had been particularly targeted by campaigners for the ways in which severely ill patients were classed as “fit for work”.
Government figures from June showed 9,320 complaints were received about PIP assessments in the year to February 2019 – a 6,000% increase in three years.
But ministers stuck with Atos, awarding it a two-year extension in June to continue carrying out the PIP assessments.
This despite revelations this summer that the proportion of disability assessment reports by Atos found to be significantly flawed has soared by more than 40% in the last two years.
The percentage rose from about 25% in 2016-17 to more than 36% flawed in 2018-19, according to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures. Freedom of Information requests also revealed much variance on the amount of time spent on assessing disabled people, depending on where they live, casting further questions on ATOS PIP assessments.