Mentally ill woman in coma: fit to work?

Sheila Holt

Sheila Holt, a 47-year-old woman from Rochdale, has been in a coma for a month. This hasn't stopped healthcare company Atos, which is used by the government to assess whether people are fit to work, from sending her another letter pushing her to find employment.

Her family say the system is responsible for the deterioration in her health.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%


According to the Manchester Evening News, Holt is bipolar and has never worked. She was receiving income support, but has struggled to cope with the changes to the benefits system. Her family claim that she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in December, after suffering a breakdown when her benefits were withdrawn. She then had a heart attack and has been in a coma for a month.

Labour's Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk has taken up her cause, and said: "I accept reform is not easy. But there has to be a smarter and more compassionate way of differentiating between those that cannot work and those that do not want to work."

Atos Healthcare told the Daily Mail: "Our thoughts are with the family of Ms Holt at this difficult time and we are sorry for any further distress caused. When an application for benefit is made we receive a referral from the Department for Work and Pensions will automatically issue the standardised ESA50 claim form so that a claim for benefit can be made. Where we know of a change in circumstances either through the DWP or the family we will return the referral to the Department and not send any correspondence."


And Holt is not the only person to have suffered horribly through the system. Some of the stories of victims are truly horrible.

In September last year, Tim Salter from Kinver had his benefits cut and faced losing his home, so he hung himself. His eyesight was failing, he was depressed, and he suffered agoraphobia. However, Atos ruled him to be fit for work, and withdrew his incapacity benefits. The coroner said: '"A major factor in his death was that his benefits had been greatly reduced leaving him almost destitute."

Elenore Tatton, a 39-year-old mother from Dedridge in Livingstone, had suffered a brain tumour at the age of 15, and the complications meant she was never able to work. She was ruled fit to work in July last year and died three weeks later.

Heart and lung transplant patient Linda Wootton from Rayleigh was ruled as fit for work in January last year. When she received the letter informing her, she was in hospital. She died nine days after her benefits were stopped.

In November 2012, Brian McArdle was declared fit for work - despite being paralysed down one side of his body, blind in one eye and unable to speak. He died of a massive heart attack the day after his benefits were stopped.

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Mentally ill woman in coma: fit to work?

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