The number of medical assessors working for the Department of Social Protection (DSP) is the same as in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic caused a deferral in recruitment. The recruitment process resumed later in 2020.
A DSP spokesperson told the Medical Independent there are 31 medical assessors working in the Department, which is the same number as in August 2020.
“Medical assessor workforce and retirement planning is proactively managed with nearly an annual recruitment process, with a view to maintaining a medical assessor panel from which vacancies are filled,” the spokesperson said.
All medical assessors are medically qualified doctors holding registration with the Medical Council.
“Many of the medical assessors have specialist postgraduate qualifications and all have received training in disability evaluation and the operation of the Department’s schemes,” the spokesperson added. “The medical assessors have an ongoing commitment to continuing medical education to ensure that standards are maintained and enhanced.”
There have been 1,801 medical assessments completed so far this year to determine a person’s continued eligibility for illness benefit, according to DSP figures. In 2022, there were 3,914 assessments and 2,780 in 2021. The number of people who had their illness benefit claims stopped because of a medical assessment was 364 in 2021, 398 in 2022, and 126 to date in 2023.
Separately, there were 57 reviews of disability allowance in 2022 and two in 2021. To date this year, 33 such reviews have taken place.
The DSP spokesperson said disability allowance claims are referred initially to a medical assessor at the application stage before a decision is made. Illness benefit reviews are carried out after the benefit has been granted.