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Without many in the public being aware of it, there are again further attempts being made, to change the medical assessment and certification approach in New Zealand, by following and further advancing ideas already tried and implemented in the UK. We have not yet got a “provider” like ATOS or Maximus here, but the way things are gradually moving ahead, I would not rule out that such a large outsourced assessor may also be introduced here at a later stage, together with a “test” similar to the discredited ‘Work Capability Assessment’ they have in the UK.

It certainly appears so, that our infamous Dr David Bratt, Principal Health Advisor for Work and Income NZ (WINZ), part of the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), had been commissioned to seek submissions from certain stake-holder parties, to get their views on changes MSD wish to make, in regards to who can be authorised to sign their so-called ‘Work Capacity Medical Certificates’ WCMCs). As if the draconian welfare reforms pushed through from 2010 to 2013, which also introduced work capability assessments for sick, injured and disabled in New Zealand, have not been enough. They did already make some significant changes to the medical certificates WINZ expects from general and some other medical practitioners (mostly GPs and their listed ‘Designated Doctors’) in 2013, expecting doctors to provide more information on patient’s capabilities to do some “suitable” work, and also by clarifying health conditions, and avoiding to sign persons off as unable to work too soon.

Now the talk is of proper “Fit Notes”, rather than “Sick Notes”, which sound like an attempt to bring the local system more in line with the UK certification regime, perhaps with further amendments or “tweaks”. That is at least what a submission from the ‘Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners‘ (RNZGP) from 18 February 2015 seems to reveal, across which we stumbled very recently.


Here is the PDF containing the 8 page submission, which can be freely downloaded online:

Click to access Submission-Widening-who-can-sign-Work-Capacity-Medical-Certificates.pdf

Update, 10 Aug. 2016: Due to website changes you need to use the following link, as the above one is no longer active and results in an error message:


We can note that the RNZCGP expresses at least some concerns about what Dr Bratt and his upper level “bosses” at the MSD seem to be planning! But even the RNZCGP seems happy to consider “good work” as “beneficial” to persons’ health, having followed the recommendations by the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM), being part of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. As readers here may know, it was the then President Elect Dr David Beaumont (former ATOS staff member) and the invited UK “expert” Professor Mansel Aylward, with some assistance by Dame Carol Black and also “researchers” at the former ‘UNUM Provident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research’ in Cardiff, Wales, who paved the way for this new approach, with the “position paper” about the “Health Benefits of Work”.


With some interest and great concern did we also take note of the introduction of a new Bill into Parliament, not long ago, in the form of a so-called ‘Health Practitioners (Replacement of Statutory References to Medical Practitioners) Bill‘. The Ministry of Health has this information available on it online:


On the Ministry website it says:

“The Health Practitioners (Replacement of Statutory References to Medical Practitioners) Bill is to amend seven Acts to increase the range of health practitioners authorised to undertake functions under those Acts by changing the current references to medical practitioners to references to health practitioners. This will increase statutory flexibility and improve consumer access to the skills of health practitioners who are qualified to provide services.”


“Regulatory impact statements”

“The background documents for removing barriers to workforce innovation are provided here. There are two Regulatory Impact Statements (RISs) which concern the Health Practitioners (Replacement of Statutory References to Medical Practitioners) Bill. One RIS accompanied the 2011 Cabinet Paper and the other RIS accompanied the 2013 Cabinet Paper.”

“Currently the legislation sets out functions to be carried out by medical practitioners. The original intent of these statutory measures was to protect public safety by ensuring that only medical practitioners (doctors) with the required knowledge and skills were permitted to perform certain tasks. However, over time the training of health practitioners has changed. New technologies and treatment have been developed and the health workforce has adapted and diversified. Many health professional groups are now capable of performing tasks that were previously solely the domain of medical practitioners, such as taking blood pressure.”

“Many health professions are regulated by the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003. The Health Practitioners (Replacement of Statutory References to Medical Practitioners) Bill takes account of responsible authorities established under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act, to govern each profession and to establish scopes of practice setting out which activities each class of practitioners is competent to carry out under this Bill.”

“The amended Acts will enable health practitioners with the required competencies and knowledge to lawfully perform certain statutory responsibilities such as participating in claimants’ individual rehabilitation plans, issuing certificates of proof of illness or injury, providing ongoing health care, arranging medical examinations of children or young people, and taking blood specimens from road users. The amendments will make it easier for the public to access the statutory services from health practitioners and will facilitate innovative and efficient practice by practitioners.”

There is a range of Cabinet Papers and so forth downloadable from the website.


Here is a link to the page on the NZ Parliament’s website, where more information can be found:


Here is a copy of the Bill on ‘New Zealand Legislation’:


While these new changes may be welcome by some, and while they may seem rather limited at this stage, they appear to be preparing the ground for more changes to come. Hence the proposed Bill raises some important questions and concerns. Since we see that MSD are keen to have more medical and health professionals authorised to sign medical or ‘Work Capacity Medical Certificates’, I would be extremely concerned, as we know what Dr Bratt stands for, having in a number of his now well known “presentations” likened “benefit dependence” to “drug dependence”. He has fully signed up to the ideas and approaches by such UK “experts” like Professor Mansel Aylward and others – many from the controversial ‘Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research’, formerly co-funded by UNUM Provident, in Cardiff, Wales, in the UK.

I would strongly advise readers to further read up on and study what all this may mean, as we could indeed soon see a further blurring of the lines, in regards to who may in future be allowed to sign our medical or ‘Work Capacity Medical Certificates’, likely to be “Fit Notes” or “Work Fitness Notes” of whatever types, than what we have known so far. It just appears so that the new agenda is being pushed further, to attempt and declare yet more persons with serious and permanent sickness, with impairments and disabilities of whatever kind, “fit” for work, so they can throw more off benefits and also off ACC claims support.



(Note: A similar post has also been published via ACC Forum)



Some other posts of interest, that relate to this topic:

(there are further parts to the work ability assessment post!)

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Some members from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) in the UK have made us aware of a sad case of appalling treatment of a disabled man with a serious heart condition who is dependent on social security payments in Toronto in Canada.


They provided the following link to a post on the website of ‘ONTARIO COALITION AGAINST POVERTY‘:


The headline of a post says this:

‘Emergency Action: Phone/Email the Minister Today, Prevent a Man from Being Made Homeless Due to a Computer Glitch’



“A 53 year old man with numerous health issues, including an upcoming double bypass surgery, Andrew McLean, is about to be evicted because of an ODSP computer error. Since the rollout of the Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) computer system last autumn, Andrew has seen his life turned upside down. Like many Ontarians on social assistance and disability, due to “glitches” in the new system, Andrew received his cheque late. His landlord initiated eviction proceedings against him based on “late payment of rent,” and won an eviction order at the Landlord Tenant Board for Saturday, February 28.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services has acknowledged that they are to blame for this fiasco. Andrew’s worker has written several letters stating that they are working on fixing issues like these with SAMS. This hasn’t happened and shows no sign of happening soon. The Ministry has refused to do anything other than say “we’re working on it,” while a man who needs significant and pressing medical help is left worrying about where he will sleep Sunday night.

This has had a very negative impact on Mr. McLean, who says: “It’s running me down, I feel tired all the time, I get chest pains and headaches because I don’t know what to do. It’s been an incredible stress. I can’t live my regular routine due to stress like this. And nobody can give me a straight answer about how to fix this, a straight answer about where I am supposed to live!”

We refuse to accept half-hearted excuses and apologies from the very Ministry that put Andrew in this situation in the first place. OCAP demands:

• That the Ministry prevent this eviction or, failing that, take on the responsibility of finding Andrew affordable, accessible and secure housing, given that they are the ones responsible for him facing the prospect of homelessness.

• That the SAMS experiment be deemed a failure, and that all OW/ODSP recipients impacted by it resume receiving benefits in the same manner and amount as prior to its rollout

The Ministry of Community and Social Services is responsible for the fact that Andrew is facing homelessness, and no excuses or stalling can change that fact. If Andrew isn’t housed immediately, join OCAP on Wednesday, March 4 at 12:00PM at the Macdonald block of Ontario Government Buildings (900 Bay, just past Wellesley) where OCAP will confront the MCSS and demand housing for Andrew, along with a repeal of SAMS, ensuring benefits are available to all Ontarians who need them, regardless of whatever computer system the province decides to use. We won’t accept any more passing of the buck, just give us what we are owed!”



They have launched an appeal for action by supporters, to send emails or tweets to the two Ministers involved:


Dr. Helena Jaczek
Ministry phone: 416-325-5225
Constituency phone: 905-294-4931
Twitter: @HelenaJaczek

Ted McMeekin
Ministry phone: 416-585-7000
Constituency phone: 905-690-6552
Twitter: @TedMcMeekin


There is more background information on Andrew McLean and his situation that can be read on the original blog.

Further action is planned and has been announced in that blog post, which is recommended reading. It shows how the introduction of “new systems”, be this for “work capability assessments”, for other assessments, for outsourced “work programs”, or for simply paying benefits to persons in need, is leading to new, numerous challenges, problems and unacceptable, often inhumane failures, and even blatant harassment.


We strongly suggest those here in New Zealand, who share their concern for disabled facing the cold, hard face of unsympathetic and failing “new” welfare systems, whether here, in the UK, or in this case in Canada, send their messages in support of the man, to demand the Ministers take immediate action to provide him with secure housing and reliable, sufficient, living costs covering benefit support!


DPAC themselves are now focusing on the new Provider they will soon have start their work in the form of assessing sick and disabled in the UK for “work capability”.


The Provider is called MAXIMUS and comes originally from the US, the home also of UNUM, about which we wrote repeatedly in a number of posts on this site. MAXIMUS are making many promises, but will use and apply the same “Work Capability Assessment” (WCA) that ATOS Healthcare has been using for years, to assess sick and disabled for their “fitness” for work, as expected by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) there.

Those who will have followed posts on this humble blog will be well informed about what we are writing here.

There is some impressive action planned to express opposition and anger about the DWP bringing in yet another corporate style “assessment provider”, to continue the onslaught against human rights and dignity of the sick and physically and mentally impaired, who in most cases are unable to work, certainly in the common, competitive “jobs” that remain on the open employment market.


Read about what is about to happen all over the UK very shortly, by clicking this link, provided by DPAC:



This is the “home” page of the DPAC website by the way:


Let us show solidarity across our shores and borders, to defend the rights of the seriously ill and the disabled, no matter where they and their rights are being attacked, particularly with new “cost saving” measures, such as the ones that have also crept into the social security system here in New Zealand!!! Cutting and denying benefits, putting endless unreasonable “expectations”, “obligations” and other pressures on the weakest of the weak is a crime, a crime against humanity and civil rights.


(More to follow)


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