Will I have to go for a medical assessment?
You will probably be invited to a medical assessment after you have sent back your Capability for Work questionnaire and any supporting evidence. This is normal, so try not to worry.
What is the medical assessment?
The medical assessment is a face-to-face examination conducted by an approved Healthcare Professional (HCP). This is usually:
- A doctor
- A nurse
- An occupational therapist.
HCPs may not be fully trained in mental health conditions or the impact mental health problems can have on a person’s day-to-day life and activities. It is really important that you complete your Capability for Work health questionnaire in as much detail as possible and take a copy with you when you attend a medical assessment
The health assessment should help the DWP understand:
- How your mental health condition affects your ability to work
- Whether you can do any activity that helps you increase your chances of finding work (this is often called "Work-Related Activity" by the DWP). For example:
- Attending a training course to learn new skills
- Finding new ways of managing your mental health condition
- The DWP should also assess whether work-related activity will make your mental health condition worse. If the HCP does not talk about this, you should tell them how work-related activity affects your mental health.
Where does the medical assessment take place?
The assessment usually takes place at a Health Assessment Advisory Centre closest to where you live. Most centres are now offering Covid-compliant assessments, though some might still ask you to complete a telephone or video call assessment.
The details of the assessment will be sent to you in the post and include:
- The date and time the assessment will happen
- Where the assessment is scheduled to take place:
- In-person at the Health Assessment Advisory centre or
- By phone or video call
Can I take someone with me to the medical assessment?
You can ask someone familiar with your mental health condition to accompany you to the assessment including:
- A friend or family member
- An Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) who is familiar with your condition.
This could be:
- Your mental health carer
- Your mental health support worker
- Your mental health nurse
- Your welfare rights adviser
- A social worker familiar with your condition
Someone who knows you and how your mental health condition affects your day-to-day life is useful in this situation. They can talk to the assessor about your condition and the assessor is not allowed to stop them.
If you are being given a telephone or online assessment you can also be accompanied in a conference call.
I find it difficult to leave my home. What do I do?
You can ask for a home assessment if your mental health condition makes it hard or impossible for you to travel to the health assessment centre. The Health Assessment Advisory Service will ask you to:
- Explain why you cannot travel to the assessment centre and
- Give them any supporting evidence explaining why you cannot travel
Most medical assessments take place face-to-face at a health assessment centre. Usually, the Health Assessment Advisory Service (HAAS) will ask if you have someone able to accompany you to help support you during the assessment. There is no guarantee that the HAAS will grant a home assessment, but you can ask.
If you feel that any health assessment is causing you unmanageable stress or anxiety, please express this before the end (do not wait until the end) of the interview as an alternative method can be arranged.
- Ask your GP or AMHP if they can provide you with medical reports or a letter explaining why you cannot travel to the assessment centre.
- Check any copies you made of medical evidence you attached to your Capability for Work questionnaire – this can help support your home assessment request.
If there are any future Covid-19 restrictions, the Health Assessment Advisory Service cannot offer home visits. If you are asked to attend a face-to-face assessment, you should contact the HAAS team as soon as possible. Their contact details will be on the letter and/or email they send inviting you to the assessment.
If you are worried about attending a face-to-face assessment because of your physical or mental health, you should contact the HAAS team as soon as possible.
HAAS has stated that their healthcare professionals will consider all available evidence and information you provide as to why you cannot travel to an assessment centre. They may be able to offer a pre-paid taxi to the Assessment Centre or a telephone or video assessment.
How do I prepare for the medical assessment?
You can make a note of exactly what you want to tell the assessor. Use the answers you gave on your Capability for Work questionnaire as a starting point. Think about how your mental health condition affects you on good days and bad days.
What are bad days like for you?
- Does your mental health prevent you from getting out of bed?
- Can you wash or dress your self when your mental health is poor?
- Does your mental health prevent you from setting an alarm clock to get up?
- Do you forget to eat and drink?
- Can you leave the house by yourself?
- Are you aware of hazards?
- Can you follow health and safety instructions? (eg. can you use a pedestrian crossing safely?)
- Do you have outbursts?
- Do you have panic attacks?
- Are you prevented from communicating with others?
- Does worrying and fixating on that worry prevent you from focusing?
- Do you forget doctor’s appointments?
Think about what you find hard or impossible to do and remember to write down how difficult you find each task.
What are your good days like?
- Are you able to get out of bed?
- Can you wash or dress yourself?
- Are you able to make breakfast or another meal?
- Can you talk with people you don’t know?
Think about the examples above, but don’t give the assessor too much information on them as they can be used to show that you do not have Limited Capability for Work (LCW). If you do have LCW make sure that you are clear that this is less than 50% of the time.
What should I bring to the medical assessment?
You should bring:
- Your ID (identification). A passport is best, but if you don’t have a passport you can take any 3 of the following documents:
- Birth certificate
- Driving licence
- Recent bank statement that shows your name and address
- A gas or electricity bill that shows your name and address
- Copies of any medical reports or letters from your GP or AMHP (e.g. counsellor, psychiatrist, therapist etc) explaining how your mental health condition affects your capability for work. You can refer to these documents throughout the assessment.
- Any medication you are taking for your mental health condition.
- A copy of your completed Capability for Work questionnaire and supporting evidence if you have them – you do not need to bring these, but it can help you remember what you wrote on the questionnaire.
Can I record my assessment?
You can ask permission to audio record your assessment, but you do not have a legal right to do so and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) do not have to provide recording equipment. However, the DWP will try to arrange this for you when they can. You must make a request for an audio recording before the assessment takes place and as soon as possible after you have received your appointment.
You can take your own recording equipment as long as it meets certain conditions:
- The recording must be on CD or tape only, so you cannot use laptops, smartphones, tablets, or MP3 players.
- Video recording is not allowed.
- The equipment must be able to provide two copies of the recording at the end of the assessment.
- One copy must be given to the DWP healthcare professional at the end of the assessment.
- You must complete a consent form.
You cannot secretly record the assessment and if you do, you may lose your benefit.
What happens at the medical assessment?
The person assessing you will usually be a doctor, a nurse, or occupational health professional.
If you are attending an assessment centre, you should be taken into a private room by the assessor. When you arrive at the centre:
- Wear a face covering or mask
- Try to always maintain a 2-metre distance from people. Some centres operate a one-way system to help you with this.
During the assessment
The assessor will begin by asking:
- What a typical day looks like for you
They do this to test your ability to perform the activities you wrote about in your Capability for Work questionnaire. Try to think about the things you find hard or impossible to do because of your mental health condition. The assessor might also ask:
- How did you get to the centre?
- Talk about any difficulties you have when travelling. For example: you need someone with you because of your mental health condition. Always tell the assessor how much effort it took you to get to the centre. Do not push yourself beyond your limit to attend. If the assessment is making you feel worse, let the assessor know immediately.
- What activities do you do on a normal day?
- Think about the things you find hard and talk about them first. For example, you have a friend or family member cook for you because you forget.
- When was your last job? Why don’t you feel you could still do your last job?
- What health conditions do you have and what treatment do you receive? Remember to talk about your mental health condition and:
- Any medication you take for it
- Any counselling or therapy sessions you attend
- Talk about any side effects of your medication and any behaviour that counselling and therapy cause.
- How do you sleep?
- If your mental health condition affects your ability to sleep properly, tell the assessor.
- Think about how a lack of sleep prevents you from working (eg. I am so tired that I cannot focus on simple tasks)
- Do you have any hobbies or interests?
- Think about the things you enjoy doing and talk about any difficulties you have when trying to do them. For example, “I used to go for walks, but anxiety means contact with others will cause severe distress and I no longer feel confident that I can avoid hazards when outdoors.”
- What do you do to socialise?
- Think about how you spend time with any family or friends. Talk about any difficulties you have going out to meet people or call a friend. For example, “I used to enjoy going out to meet friends after work and at the weekends. Now I am frightened to leave my house because I often forget how to get home. I also worry about what my friends will think of me. So, I don’t go out anymore.”
- Do you have a mobile or home landline you use?
- Think about any difficulties you have using a telephone. Does your anxiety ever make it hard or impossible to answer the phone?
Take your time
You can spend as much time as you like when answering a question. You should not feel rushed. It is important to tell the assessor how your mental health condition affects you. Some questions might seem easy to answer, but always think about what you want to say before answering.
- Think about your answers
- Talk about how much effort you spend on every task, even if you think it is not relevant
- If you feel anxious, ask the assessor for some more time
- Be as detailed as you can.
After the assessment
When you have finished the medical assessment, you should make a note of:
- How long you were with the assessor
- What questions they asked you, and the answers you gave
- The impact the assessment had on your physical and mental health.
This information can be useful if you disagree with the decision the DWP makes about your benefit. If you want to appeal, you may need this information.
Try not to worry too much about what you said or didn’t say during the assessment. No one gets everything 100% correct and the assessor should take this into account.
Remember to ask for help from your support team if you need it. This could be:
- A relative or friend
- Your AMHP
- Your carer
- Your welfare adviser
- Your social worker