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Appointment will continue to improve the Work Capability Assessment in Northern Ireland - McCausland

Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, has welcomed the appointment of Dr Paul Litchfield to carry out the fourth independent review of the Work Capability Assessment in Northern Ireland.
Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Dr Litchfield, a senior occupation physician, has been appointed by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Minister McCausland said: “The appointment of Dr Litchfield is a very welcome step. It will enable us to continue to improve the Work Capability Assessment to ensure it is as fair and accurate as possible in helping people who can work back to work, whilst giving financial support to those who need it.

“Significant improvements have already been made to the Work Capability Assessment and we will work with Dr Litchfield to ensure the voice of local people continues to be heard.”

Dr Litchfield’s fields of expertise include mental illness and the impact it can have on work prospects. Since 2011, he has worked for BT as Chief Medical Officer and Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing. As a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council, he has also played a key role in raising the profile of the economic impact of chronic disease.

Notes to editors:

  1. Biography- Dr Paul Litchfield, OBE OStJ FRCP FFOM. Paul Litchfield is Chief Medical Officer for BT Group plc and joined the company in 2001 having held senior posts in occupational medicine in both the public and private sectors. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine for which he is currently Chair of the Ethics Committee. In 2007 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to occupational health and he is presently a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on health and wellbeing as well as being a project board member of the Wellness Alliance.
  2. He has been active in the field of occupational health for some 30 years and since joining BT has created a comprehensive support framework for people with long term and fluctuating conditions. He has interacted with a number of Government departments on workplace health and in 2009 was co-author of the DWP sponsored independent review “Realising ambitions: Better employment support for people with a mental health condition”. He was lead author of the European Telecommunications sector guidelines on improving mental health published in 2010 and he is currently engaged with the European Commission on the impact of the economic downturn on workers’ health. Paul has published and lectured widely on workplace wellness, occupational mental health, sickness absence, hazard control, service delivery models and ethics in occupational health.
  3. Work Capability Assessment: Government response to an informal consultation on accounting for the effects of cancer treatments can be downloaded at the DWP website
  4. Professor Harrington has acknowledged the strenuous efforts already made by the Social Security Agency to improve the so called ‘claimant journey’ and he notes that “real progress” has been made to implement his recommendations. To date all recommendations relevant to the Social Security Agency contained within his first report have been implemented along with 20 of the 23 recommendations from his second report.
  5. Changes to the Work Capability Assessment process include:
    - Improvements to the forms issued to claimants to make them clearer, less threatening, and to more fully explain the process;
    - Amending the medical questionnaire (ESA50) to enables claimants to express the issues they face with a personalised justification;
    - The production of a Customer Charter by Atos;
    - Changes to descriptors for claimants who are awaiting, receiving, or recovering from any form of chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer;
    - The introduction of Mental Function Champions; and
    - The introduction of the pre-decision call whereby Decision Makers attempt to contact claimants by telephone to offer them the opportunity to provide further evidence before making their final decision.
  6. Media enquiries to DSD Communications Team on 028 9082 9456 or email press.office@dsdni.gov.uk. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.