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Campaigners fight for medical exam centres

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Campaigners fight for medical exam centres

A massive cutback in the number of medical examination centres where people are assessed for industrial injuries benefits is being opposed by union and welfare rights campaigners. The closures, which are the result of government outsourcing of the centres to a private company, are scheduled to take place by 31 August 2005. By the end of the year 21 out of 50 examination centres are due to close, with just four new centres promised. In March, Atos Origin, a European IT services company, was awarded the £500 million contract to deliver medical advice and assessment services for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Colin Hampton, co-ordinator of Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres, is spearheading the campaign. 'The decision to close the medical examination centres has not been taken in the interests of the claimants - it is for the administrative convenience and greed of the private contractor,' he said. Part of the DWP contract stipulates that a member of the public must not be expected to travel longer than 90 minutes from their home to the examination centre using public transport. Gill Whittaker, secretary of the Derbyshire branch of the civil service union PCS, said: 'It appears that Atos Origin have looked at the map and seen the opportunity for closures. We understood that the 90 minute rule was a safeguard, not a benchmark.' TUC is backing the campaign against the closures. 'The TUC will be making urgent representations to the DWP to try to ensure that the principle of easy access for all claimants to a medical assessment is maintained,' said TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson. 'It is not just the issue of claimants having to pay the additional costs up-front, it is the considerable difficulty many claimants will have in travelling long distances.'

  • Anyone wanting more information about the campaign can call Derbyshire Unemployed Workers Centres on 01246 231441. Atos Origin news release announcing the contract.
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