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Free, fortnightly PIP, ESA and DLA Updates

Our fortnightly updates bulletin is the UK's leading source of benefits news. Get the facts about what's changing, how it affects you and how to prepare. Our mailing list is securely managed by icontact in the US.

Our instantly downloadable guide to claiming personal independence payment (PIP) will tell you everything you need to know to help you prepare for your medical assessment, including:

  • How the PIPAT computer software used by health professionals works.
  • What questions the health professional has to answer in the PA4 Medical Consultation Report form.
  • What questions you are likely to be asked at your PIP medical.
  • The 'mental state examination' which may include asking you to count backwards in sevens or spell words backwards, as well as observing your appearance and behaviour.
  • The questions you may not be asked, but need to make sure you answer anyway.
  • What ‘informal observations’ the health professional will be making about the way you look and behave during your PIP assessment, but which you won’t be given a chance to comment on.
  • Your rights in relation to taking notes and recording medicals.
  • Who gets a home visit and how to ask for one if you need one and it isn’t offered.

To be even better prepared, you can also study our guide to the Best Possible Ways To Challenge A PIP Medical Report. It contains over 50 different grounds for challenging a medical report and will give you a clear idea about the many ways in which a medical can be carried out badly. If you are aware of pitfalls in advance, you have a better chance of either preventing some of the worst practices or making sure that you note them down to use in any future complaint or appeal.

So, give yourself the best possible chance of having an accurate PIP medical assessment by becoming a Benefits and Work member and getting instant access to all our downloadable resources.

Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about PIP medical assessments.

PIP face-to-face medical assessment FAQs

Will I have to have a medical for PIP?
If you claim PIP you are extremely likely to have to attend a face-to-face medical assessment, unless you have a terminal illness.

According to the DWP, at March 2014 around 98% of PIP claimants were being asked to attend a face-to-face assessment.

This is much higher than the 75% that the DWP had expected, mainly because neither Atos nor Capita are succeeding in getting enough medical evidence from claimants' health professionals to be able to make decisions on paper evidence alone.

How long does a PIP medical take?
Medical assessments for PIP are taking twice as long on average as the DWP had expected them to. Instead of taking an hour to carry out the medical and write it up afterwards using PIPAT computer software, Atos and Capita health professionals are taking two hours on average.

But the length of time you personally will spend at an assessment will depend very much on what conditions you have and how good at their job the health professional is. We have seen medicals where the claimant was only with the health professional for 20 minutes and others where it was almost two hours.

How long will I have to wait for an appointment?
The result of the very high proportion of claimants having to have a medical, and the length of time they are taking, is that a massive backlog has built up. In March 2014, Atos and Capita began warning claimants that they might have to wait up to 6 months before they got a medical appointment – let alone a decision.

Who carries out the medical assessment?
The majority of health professionals carrying out PIP medicals are physiotherapists with very little knowledge of mental health issues, learning difficulties or more complex physical conditions. There are also some occupational therapists, nurses and, very occasionally, doctors doing assessments.

All health professionals receive around a week’s training in how to carry out assessments, but much of this is about how to use the computer software and how the points system for PIP works.

What happens at the assessment?
Although the DWP claim that PIP medicals are not at all like the work capability assessments for employment and support allowance (ESA), they do seem to be remarkably similar, including the fact that they are computer led.

The medical consists of several parts.

First, the health professional should read any documents relating to your case.

Next, they ask you a series of questions about your condition and about your everyday life. As with ESA, they use drop down lists, multiple choice answers and text boxes to record information on a computer as they go.

Then they may carry out a brief physical examination, checking things like your eyesight, your blood pressure and the range of movement in your limbs, if any of these are relevant to your condition.

Whilst all this is going on they will be making informal observations about the way you look and behave.

Finally, after you have gone, they will list which descriptors (points) they consider apply to you and justify their conclusions.

Will I have to travel far for my assessment?
That depends on which company does the assessments in your area. If you are in a Capita area then you are very likely to have your assessment in your home. If you are in an Atos area then you will only get a home medical if you can convince Atos that there is a strong medical reason why you cannot attend an assessment centre.

How can I best prepare for a medical?
Read our guides, consider how you are going to travel to the medical, think about what evidence it’s vital for the health professional to hear and, if it would help you, write some notes about the most vital issues and take them with you to ensure that you don’t forget anything.