On Friday afternoon I had an appointment with a representative from ATOS healthcare. This was my assessment to see if I was fit for work. My appointment was for 11:40am and we arrived at the hospital at 11:20am. After asking the hospital receptionist if we were in the right place, we were asked to take a seat and someone would be with us shortly. The receptionist also informed us, in a nice way, that ATOS were dealing with the appointments and not hospital staff. We took a seat and waited. The hospital staff were extremely kind and helpful.
Time went by and there was no sign of anyone. I was beginning to wonder if the representative even knew we were there. The seating area was empty. After an hours travelling time to get to the hospital I was feeling tired and grumpy. I asked the receptionist if the representative from ATOS was still on the premises and she promptly went to find out. Yes, the representative was still there. It was now 12:05 and still no sign of life from the room that ATOS had rented from the hospital.
Just as I was about to nod off, I heard a door open and saw a smartly dressed man walking down the corridor. He called my name. Yes result at last. I caught up to the young man and smiled at him and said, ‘I was beginning to think you had gone home’. He replied with embarrassment, ‘I am sorry that you have had to wait’. I wanted to be angry and say what was on my mind, but, he seemed genuinely embarrassed and so I just smiled and we followed him into the examination room.
I have to say that I was not in the least bit nervous. Why should I be? I have tried very hard for the past seven years to get back to work. I want to work. I want my independence back. I would like nothing more than to be told I am fit for work. I will not give up on earning my own keep. At 59 years of age I have worked most of my life and it is only due to my medical conditions that I am unable to do so now. No, I wasn’t nervous at all, I want to hear I am fit for work and then to get the support to help me reach that goal. I am not a wealthy person and the benefits I receive go a long way to help me keep my independence.
There I was sitting in a room looking at this young man who was reading my medical history. He looked very clean and sterile and robotic. No smile or emotion, this man had been trained well. Suddenly I decided that before this assessment was over this young man would smile. That statement may sound strange to some but, come on, the people who are going for these assessments will be worried, nervous and anxious. The ATOS representative should at least try and put people at ease. A smile can do a lot to help in these situations. I know that the job they have is not an easy one, and the representative may not know what to expect, but a tiny smile would help to relieve any tensions. Anyway back to the assessment.
The assessment began with me proving my identity. Next we went on to medication. In the letter that I had received for the appointment I was asked to take my medication with me. I put the bag of medication on my lap, there was a lot. I then produced my repeat prescription list to prove that I was really on the medicine. This took a little while and in the meantime I ached all over. I tried to remain positive and as cheerful as I could be. But I wanted the whole thing to be over so that I could go home and sleep. I was exhausted.
Lots of personal questions were asked about what I could and couldn’t do and we also talked in depth about my medical conditions and disabilities. I found it hard to remember dates and times but I explained this to the representative who was very efficient and nice. Still no smile. I tried to stress that I was still trying hard to earn a living and proudly told him that I had gained a diploma in freelance journalism and other stuff that I had tried to gain employment. There was a little hint of a smile in his eyes, I am sure of that, I think.
After all the questions had been completed the young man then said that he would do a medical examination. He tested my movement whilst standing; my eyesight which is only partial and I think he was quite surprised at how little I could actually see. I thorough job was done with this procedure and I was happy that the examination had been done by someone who actually knew about my conditions.
I sat back down again and waited until the representative read through some paperwork. He again apologised for us having to wait and asked how long it took us to get to the hospital. It had taken us an hour. The subject changed to shopping and the distance we travel and then it happened. He smiled and said ‘ Not a good situation if you forget something’. I replied, ‘my husband has forgotten eggs two weeks in a row’. We all had a laugh to that.
The whole procedure took around an hour and I was very relieved when it was over because I was beginning to feel ill, I needed sleep and I was in a lot of pain. My experience with the ATOS assessment was not a bad one, but it certainly left me with a lot to think about.
In my case I have several disabilities, partial vision, long term arthritis, and Fybromyalgia. My mobility is poor as is my eyesight, yet I can get dressed and perform tasks around the house, I am computer literate and my mind, when it’s not foggy, works well. I can study at my own pace, I am a qualified book-keeper and freelance journalist, my history has been in administration, computing and customer service. If anyone looks at all of this on an assessment form it certainly looks like I am capable of working. However, the reality is that no matter how I try I am unable to work outside my capabilities. I know that I cannot go out to work at regular hours, when and how I work depends on my health condition each day. I have tried very hard but it often seems impossible. I am still trying and hopefully I can begin to earn a living being a part-time freelance journalist. I have spent the best part of my life playing down my disabilities in order to work, but in the end my health got in the way.
Looking at an assessment form to analyse a persons potential to work may not give the whole story. It is not as simple as saying ‘she can use a computer therefore she can work’. The whole picture should be looked at and I believe that this cannot be done by an hour long assessment with the results on a piece of paper. It would be interesting to hear of other experiences with the ATOS assessments and the outcome.
I don’t know if I will be marked as being fit to work, but I will find out when I receive my letter and share the results here.
If you have a story to share about your experience please feel free to post it here.