Social Security Experience Panels: Personal Independence Payment health assessments

Panels' views expressed in a survey on Personal Independence Payment health assessments.

This document is part of a collection

Booking an assessment

In the past, we have heard from Experience Panel members that booking a health assessment for Personal Independence Payment can be a stressful experience[8] . The stress can be a result of the booking procedure, a lack of information about the assessment itself or apprehension about the upcoming health assessment.

Health assessments for Personal Independence Payment are currently carried out by third party organisations contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions[9]. A number of respondents told us they had negative experiences when interacting with these organisations when booking, or attempting to seek information about their health assessment:

"I had to get an office appointment. I tried to get information about who to see in order to prepare my son, but the Atos staff were most unhelpful and in one case very rude. I tried to explain that because of my sons autism I might not be able to get him to attend. They told me he wouldn't get PIP."

Booking a health assessment

In the future when Social Security Scotland takes responsibility for administering Personal Independence Payment, they may offer clients different ways to book a health assessment. This will allow clients to book an assessment in the way that is most convenient for them.

There are three methods of booking a health assessment under consideration: the client books the assessment themselves, choosing the date, time and location; the client is automatically assigned the first available appointment within an hour's travel of their home; or the client is given the opportunity to arrange a home visit.

When asked which option they would prefer, respondents overwhelmingly opted for choices that allowed them to choose when the assessment took place. Almost half of the respondents wanted to choose the date, time and location of the health assessment themselves (47 per cent). A further 48 per cent wanted to be able to choose a home visit instead of visiting a Social Security Scotland venue. Just one in twenty wanted to be automatically assigned the first available appointment within an hours travel of their home (5 per cent).

Table 9: Respondent preference for booking assessments (n=128)

Booking method %
Client chooses the date, time and location 47
Client chooses the date and time of a home visit 48
Client is given the first available appointment within one hours travel of their home by public transport 5
Total 100

No statistically significant associations were observed for booking preferences between respondents in urban and rural areas, or between respondents who had a disability or were a carer. This is similar to previous work which suggests that clients in urban and rural areas have broadly similar preferences for how they access and interact with the agency[10].

In the future, Social Security Scotland will offer home visits to clients who require them. Respondents who told us they would prefer a home visit tended to refer to mobility issues or specific health conditions as a reason for this:

"My son has a learning disability […] He can't attend a centre so location i.e. a home visit is imperative."

Important factors when self-booking a health assessment

To further understand what is important to clients when booking their own health assessment, they were supplied a list of six factors and asked to select all of the factors that they would like to be able to choose as part of a future online booking system.

These factors were:

  • The assessor's knowledge of specific medical conditions;
  • The location of the health assessment;
  • The time of the health assessment;
  • The date of the health assessment;
  • The assessor's experience (i.e. their qualifications); and
  • Specific access requirements at assessment locations (e.g. a venue with a car park or no stairs).

The most popular request was to choose an assessor who had knowledge of the client's particular medical condition (95 per cent). Choosing the location (90 per cent) and time (76 per cent) were also popular.

Table 10: What is important when booking a health assessment? (n=128)

Factor %
The assessor's knowledge of specific medical conditions 95
The location of the health assessment 90
The time of the health assessment 76
Specific access requirements 65
The assessor's experience (i.e. their qualifications) 63
The date of the health assessment 55

In order to inform the design of the future online booking system, respondents were asked to choose the single most and least important factor from the list above.

The most popular choice was to be able to choose an assessor based on their knowledge of particular conditions, followed by the location of the health assessment venue. The least important choice when booking an assessment was the date of the assessment itself, closely followed by the time and being able to choose an assessment venue by specific access requirements.

Figure 2: Most and least important factors when booking an appointment

Figure 2: Most and least important factors when booking an appointment

Client choice in booking assessments

Many respondents told us it was important that they had the option to book their own health assessments. For many respondents, the changeable nature of their health condition meant that they placed a high value on flexibility.

"I am not able to travel far on my own. I often struggle to even get to the local supermarket and there are times when I am unable to do even that. Travelling to Glasgow for my assessments is traumatic."

Other respondents had to arrange for a carer, friend or family member to accompany them on the trip, therefore they had to be able to arrange the assessment time to fit in with their schedules.

"It would be better for me if I could pick the day of the assessment as I would need someone to come with me and would be easier to arrange if there was a degree of flexibility about the day."



Back to top