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Preparing for your ESA medical assessment

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

Most people, after submitting the ESA50 form, will be asked to go for a medical assessment, called a ‘Work Capability Assessment’. The assessments are carried out by the Medical Support Service (MSS) for Northern Ireland.

MSS will phone you to arrange a date and time for the assessment. If you’d rather be contacted in a different way, you can let MSS know by emailing them, or you can get someone else to call them for you and let them know you’d prefer to be emailed.

Email: customer-relations@chdauk.co.uk
Telephone: 0300 123 1785

If the date or time doesn’t suit you, you can ask to change it.

When they contact you, MSS will also tell you which of their centres you need to go to for your assessment.

Worth remembering

If your illness or disability makes it difficult or impossible for you to travel to an assessment, you can ask for the assessment to be done at home instead. Tell MSS when they call – they’ll ask you to provide information from your doctor, or other medical professional, to explain why you can’t travel.

Arrange your medical assessment

Check with MSS that the centre you’re going to has got everything you need. If it hasn’t, you can ask for it.

For example, you can:

  • ask for any special type of chair you need to sit on (while you’re waiting for and during your assessment) - make sure they will have one there
  • check whether you’ll have to go up stairs, or whether they’ve got a lift you can get your wheelchair into
  • ask them how roomy the assessment centre is if you get anxious in enclosed spaces - if the rooms or corridors are small, tell them this could make you anxious and see what they can offer you
  • ask for an interpreter or signer if you need one - you need to ask for one at least two days before your assessment so they can make sure that one’s available
  • ask for the person carrying out the assessment to be the same gender as you, if that’s important to you

To ask for any of these things, or anything else you need, call the customer relations team.

Telephone: 0300 123 1785
Monday to Friday
Open 9am to 5pm

Worth remembering

If you think the assessment centre can’t give you what you need, you can get help from your local Citizens Advice.

You can take someone with you to the assessment and into the assessment room with you, if you want to. This could be someone who makes you feel more comfortable and can give you support while the assessment is happening, like a friend, relative or carer.

Warning

You must go to your assessment. If you don’t go and the ESA decision-maker decides you do not have a good reason for not going, they may stop your claim. If you need to postpone it because you’re not well enough to go, make sure you call before the appointment.

Telephone: 0300 123 1785
Monday to Friday
Open 9am to 5pm

Travel expenses - what you can get back

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

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

Telephone: 0800 288 8777
Monday to Friday
Open 9am to 5pm

Public transport

Make sure you keep any tickets or receipts.

By car

You can claim back your fuel costs. The rate is 25p per mile. You can also get back any parking costs.

By taxi

If you can only travel by taxi, you need to telephone before the assessment on 0800 288 8777 to let ATOS know. They’ll then get a healthcare professional to consider your request and will let you know if they’ll cover your taxi fare.

Warning

If you don’t get agreement before your assessment that ATOS will pay your taxi fare, they’ll only pay back what you would have paid on public transport.

Get ready for your medical assessment

There are a few things you can do before your assessment that might make it feel less stressful on the day.

Think about how your illness or disability affects you - particularly on bad days. You’ll have already mentioned lots of these things when you filled in the ESA50 form, but it will really help if you’re ready to talk 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
  • what a usual day is like for you - how your condition affects you from day to day
  • what a bad day is like for you - eg, ‘On a bad day, I can’t walk at all because my injured leg hurts so much’ or ‘On a bad day, I’m so depressed I can’t concentrate on anything’

Worth remembering

You can write out a list of all these things and take it into the assessment with you. It’s fine to check it during the assessment if you’re worried about remembering things you want to say.

What to take with you

You’ll need to take identification with you to your assessment. A passport is usually best. If you don’t have a passport, you need to take along 2 different types of identification. For example:

  • your birth certificate
  • your full driving licence
  • a recent bank statement that shows your name and address
  • a gas or electricity bill

You should also have with you:

  • any pills or medication you need 
  • any aids and appliances that you use like glasses, hearing aids or a walking stick

If you made and kept a copy of your ESA50 form, you can take this into the assessment if you want to. This will help you make sure you tell the assessor everything about your condition and don’t miss anything out.

Worth remembering

You can bring a friend or family member with you and take them into the actual assessment with you for support if you want to. They can also tell the assessor things for you if you find it difficult.

You can also ask for your assessment to be recorded or for someone to go in with you to make notes. Call 0800 288 8777 before the assessment to let MSS know.

What happens at your medical assessment

An independent medically qualified assessor (sometimes called a healthcare professional) will check how your illness or disability affects your ability to work. They use the information you've given on your ESA50 form and also draw opinions and make assumptions from what you do on the day.

For example, they 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.

Or, if you say you go shopping in a supermarket they may assume you can walk around the supermarket unless you make it clear that you can't or need help.

Or they could 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. In this example, it could be helpful to explain further if relevant, eg that you waited half an hour but had to walk around etc because I couldn't sit for that long.

Worth remembering

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 assessment day, the assessor may think you can always do them. If you’re not comfortable with anything - say so.

You might be asked to carry out some physical tasks during the assessment. The assessor might also examine you in a similar way that a doctor would.

They’ll talk to you about the things you’ve said on your ESA50 form - you’ll be able to check back to the answers you gave on the form if you’ve taken your copy with you. You can explain these again to the assessor and you can also give other examples of things you find difficult.

Tips for your medical assessment

Do:

  • tell the assessor everything you can that’s relevant to your illness, health condition or disability, even if it’s already on your form
  • back up what you’ve said on the ESA50 form with any evidence you can, like a doctor’s letter or examples of things that have happened to you
  • ask for any help you need - it can make the assessment less stressful

Don’t:

  • exaggerate or lie about your condition
  • feel you have to do anything you normally wouldn’t be able to do
  • expect the assessor to be 'on your side' - they’re there to ask questions, not to make sure you get ESA

The assessor doesn’t make the decision about your ESA - they make a recommendation to the ESA Centre after your assessment. At your assessment, they won’t be able to tell you what they’re going to recommend.

You can get a copy of your assessment report by asking the ESA Centre. The phone number will be on any letters you’ve had from them about your ESA claim.

After your assessment, a decision maker from the ESA Centre will look at the recommendation made by the assessor and use this along with the ESA50 and any other evidence you have provided to decide if you can get ESA.

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