Preparing for your ESA medical assessment

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

You’ll usually need to have a medical assessment after you’ve sent back your capability for work questionnaire.

You’ll get a letter 1 to 2 months after you’ve sent your questionnaire back - it will tell you the date and time of your assessment, and where to go.

The assessment will help the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) understand:

  • how your health condition, disability or illness affects your ability to work

  • if you’re able to do activity that improves your chances of finding work - for example, skills training or trying new ways to manage your condition or disability

If you’re waiting for a medical assessment

At the moment, the DWP will try to do the assessment by looking at your medical evidence and talking to you over the phone or by video call. It’s important to send your medical evidence as soon as possible.

If the DWP can’t assess you over the phone or by video call, they’ll invite you to a face-to-face medical assessment.

At your assessment

The assessment will be carried out by a healthcare professional from the Health Assessment Advisory Service. They work on behalf of the DWP.

They’ll talk to you about your medical history and activities you can do in a single day. They’ll ask questions to find out how your health condition, disability or illness affects your ability to carry out a range of everyday activities.

They’ll also ask you about the things you’ve said on your questionnaire - take a copy with you so you can check back to the answers you gave. If you haven’t kept your own copy then ask the DWP to send you one before the assessment - use the contact details on any of your ESA letters.


Questions you might be asked

The health professional might ask you how you got to the assessment centre. If you say you came on the bus, they’ll make a note that you can travel alone on public transport.

They might ask if you go shopping in a supermarket. Make it clear if you can't or need help doing this - otherwise they might assume you can walk around the supermarket on your own.

They might ask how long you’ve been sitting in the waiting room before the assessment. If you say ’Half an hour’, they’ll make a note that you can sit on an ordinary chair for at least 30 minutes. Tell them if you found it uncomfortable or needed to get up and walk around because you couldn't sit for that long.

You might have a physical examination too but they'll ask your permission. It’s not the same as an examination from a GP or consultant and you won’t need to remove items of intimate clothing. You should do as much of the examination as you feel comfortable with.

Don’t feel you have to do things in the assessment that you wouldn’t normally be able to do. If you do them on the assessment day, the health professional might think you can always do them. If you’re not comfortable with anything, say so.

Think about what it’s like for you on a bad and a good day, and how often you have bad days. This will help the health professional understand how your health condition, disability or illness affects your life.

Tell them about the kind of things you have difficulty with, or can’t do at all - for example, walking up steps without help, or remembering to go to appointments.

You can write out a list of all these things and bring it into the assessment with you. If you kept a copy of your capability for work questionnaire, take this to the assessment too. It’s fine to check these during the assessment if you’re worried about remembering things you want to say.

You should also bring any extra medical information the DWP might not have seen. For example letters from your GP or specialist you got after you sent back your capability for work questionnaire. You can bring copies if you need to keep the originals.

If you need adjustments at your assessment

Check with the Health Assessment Advisory Service that the centre you’re going to has everything you need. If it hasn’t, you can call them or email them to ask for what you need.

Health Assessment Advisory Service

Telephone: 0800 288 8777

Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

Saturday, 9am to 5pm


Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

You should ask for any physical adjustments you might need. For example, a certain type of chair to sit on during the assessment or while you’re waiting.

If you get anxious in enclosed spaces you should ask how roomy the assessment centre is. If the rooms or corridors are small, tell them this could make you anxious and see if they can do the assessment in a bigger room.

If you need a spoken language or British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter it’s important you ask for one at least 2 days before your assessment. If you don’t there might not be one available on the day.

Asking for a home assessment

If your illness or disability makes it difficult or impossible for you to travel to an assessment, you can ask for it to be done at home instead.

The Health Assessment Advisory Service will ask you to give them evidence to explain why you can’t travel. For example, a letter from your GP or other medical professional.

Asking for your assessment to be recorded

You don’t have to do this, but if you want the assessment to be recorded you should ask for this as early as possible before the assessment. If they are able to do this, the Health Assessment Advisory Service will record the sound of the assessment only. 

If you need support from a friend or family member

You can take them into the assessment if you want to.

They can tell the health professional things for you if you find it difficult. For example, if you have a mental health condition which makes it difficult for you to talk.

They can also take notes so you have your own record of what happened in the assessment. Any notes they take are for your private use and won’t be an official record of the assessment.

Plan how to get to your assessment 

You should think about how you’ll get there before your assessment date. You might want to:

  • allow extra time if you find getting about difficult

  • plan your route so you know what to expect - this might help if you find being in public places stressful

  • ask a friend or family member to help you plan the journey if you can’t do it yourself

  • book your travel in advance - for example train tickets

Claim back your travel expenses

You can get travel costs paid back into your bank account. Bring your bank details and travel tickets with you to the assessment centre. The receptionist will help you fill in a claim form.

You can also get back the costs for anyone who needs to come with you. If you want to claim expenses for someone else, let the Health Assessment Advisory Service know before you book any travel.

If you’re travelling by public transport

You should keep:

  • bus tickets

  • train tickets

  • tram tickets

  • any other tickets or receipts that show you paid to use public transport

If you’re travelling by car

You can claim back your fuel and parking costs. The rate for fuel is 25p per mile. The amount you get will be calculated based on the distance from your home to the assessment centre.

You should keep your parking tickets or receipts.

If you can only travel by taxi

You must call the Health Assessment Advisory Service if you need to get a taxi to the assessment.

A healthcare professional will look at your request and decide if you have a medical need to take a taxi. If they agree, you can claim back your taxi fare.

If your request is turned down before your assessment, the Health Assessment Advisory Service will only pay you back the cost of the equivalent journey on public transport.

Bring identification and any medication you need

You’ll need to bring identification with you to your assessment. A passport is usually best. If you don’t have a passport, you need to take along 3 different types of identification. You can take:

  • your birth certificate

  • your driving licence

  • a recent bank statement that shows your name and address

  • a gas or electricity bill

You should also bring:

  • any medication you need

  • any aids you use for example glasses, hearing aids or a walking stick

If you can’t go to your assessment

You should call the Health Assessment Advisory Service and postpone your assessment if you can’t go. You must have a good reason for not going, for example you’re ill or have a family emergency.

If you don’t go to your assessment without a good reason and don’t let the Health Assessment Advisory Service know, the DWP will assume you’re fit for work and your ESA will stop. You should ask for a mandatory reconsideration if you think the decision is wrong.

Health Assessment Advisory Service

Telephone: 0800 288 8777

Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

Saturday, 9am to 5pm


Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

After your assessment

The health professional doesn’t make the decision about your ESA - they’ll make a recommendation to the DWP after your assessment. Find out how you’ll get your ESA decision after an assessment.

Help us improve our website

Take 3 minutes to tell us if you found what you needed on our website. Your feedback will help us give millions of people the information they need.

Page last reviewed on 30 April 2020