THE Department for Work and Pensions’s (DWP) fitness for work test provider has been accused of “bribing” Scotland’s frontline junior doctors with a massive salary of up to £90,000 to carry out tests on the country’s vulnerable mentally and physically disabled.

Maximus, the US company contracted by the DWP to carry out work capability assessments (WCA), is advertising on recruitment website and has been accused of trying to lure under-pressure junior doctors, earning £30,000, away from the NHS with a pay hike to boost their salaries to between £70,000 to £90,000, plus benefits.

Candidates, who are required to have two years’ post-qualification medical experience, are offered

“functional assessor” roles with

Maximus, and are promised an initial one to two-week training course.

Former breast cancer surgeon and shadow SNP Westminster group leader for health, Dr Philippa Whitford MP, and Christina McKelvie MSP, who is on the welfare reform committee, have vowed to write to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith to express their concerns and call for a meeting.

McKelvie said it was “staggering to see the sheer hypocrisy of David Cameron’s Government” at a time when junior doctors in the NHS are fighting for a fair contract and reasonable working hours.

She added: “While junior doctors work long hours on difficult and demanding shifts, they earn around £30,000 a year. To pay £90,000 a year plus as part of the Tories’ plan to cut costs is offensive and outrageous.”

Last year, it was revealed that nearly 90 people a month are dying after being declared fit for work and a coroner demanded that the Government takes action to prevent future deaths of disability benefit claimants when she concluded in a “ground-breaking” inquest verdict that a disabled man killed himself as a direct result of being found “fit for work”.

Whitford said it was “astonishing” that doctors with such limited experience would be assessing people with complex physical and mental health issues.

She added: “I think it is bizarre because you actually require experienced people. It also seems bizarre that a company contracted by the Government is going to contribute to the shortage of doctors we have in the NHS.”

The recruitment drive follows a National Audit Office (NAO) report earlier this month that found Maximus was “not on track” to meet Government targets to reduce benefits costs.

John McArdle, co-founder of the Scottish-based Black Triangle campaign, said: “The bottom line has got to be that any doctor who takes this money to do this job at the moment is complicit in a system which has been proven in a court of law to lead directly to deaths.

“This is an absolute outrage. It is sheer bribery.

“All credit to the medical profession but the reason why Maximus are in such deep trouble at the moment is because medical practitioners go into medicine and nursing to take care of people and are not prepared to be complicit in a system which causes devastating harm, and long may that continue.

“In a situation where we’ve got junior doctors under incredible stress, it is inevitable they might be able to pick some of them off with these five-day working weeks and excessive wages.”

Doctors’ union BMA Scotland said anything that increased the vacancy rates of junior doctors was a concern.

A Maximus spokesperson said: “The focus for our recruitment is the private healthcare sector. Two-thirds of the healthcare professionals we have recruited since taking over the contract [in March 2015] have come from that sector.

“Our functional assessors – doctors, nurses and therapists – are responsible for carrying out high-quality assessments and we offer a competitive salary, in line with the market rate.”

A DWP spokesman said it was determined to help more people into work and provide them with the “correct support”.

He added: “To ensure this is targeted properly and that we achieve value for money, we operate a strict, competitive contract tendering process.

“We also have rigorous safeguards in place to ensure providers are delivering and improvements are being made where needed.”