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APR 14/2015

Functional Assessor Roles Explained

One of the most common struggles of nurses is trying to balance the demands of work with home life, as shift patterns can make it difficult to be around when needed for family and other commitments. Agency nursing can provide a degree of control, but temporary work also comes with less job stability and certainty over working patterns. However, nurses who want to improve their work-life balance do have some alternative work options available. One less traditional option is to work fixed hours in an office environment as a Functional Assessor.

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What is a Functional Assessor?
The term ‘functional assessor’ is fairly new and this particular role involves doing face-to-face interviews with benefit claimants and preparing detailed clinical assessments for the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments.  It is quite similar to the role benefits or welfare assessors do, but the employers and the range of benefit claims involved are quite different.   

The Centre for Health and Disability Assessments has more than 160 assessment centres across the UK and uses functional assessors to investigate claims for Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Veterans UK and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.  Welfare or Benefits Assessors do a very similar job, but the claims investigated are related to PIPs (also known as Personal Independence Payments) which tend to be more associated with permanent disablements as opposed to temporary or work-related conditions. 

What kinds of nurses are these positions suitable for?
Functional assessor roles are best fitted to nurses who have good clinical assessment skills and are confident in making decisions. Interpersonal skills are very important, along with the ability to write concise reports, although paid training (8-12 weeks) is provided for the latter. These roles are ideal for nurses who are looking to make a career move but still want to keep their clinical skills up to date. They are unlikely to appeal to nurses who are strongly committed to delivering hands on nursing care in their role rather than focusing more on assessments. However we have seen nurses from a wide range of clinical backgrounds excel within these roles.

What are the benefits?
The key benefits are a much more sociable 9-5 working day with bank holidays off and an opportunity to escape the stress of the wards.  Successful applicants will also have the opportunity to greatly develop their clinical knowledge as they come into contact with a much broader range of conditions than those nurses working in a single speciality.  In addition, the role offers a number of opportunities to develop your career further, whether through paid training or gaining more experience in certain areas. Nurses who want to keep their NMC and hands on nursing skills up to date also have the option of supplementing their earnings by doing shifts at the weekend or in the evenings.

What can I earn?
Salaries start at £38,000 (£44,000 in London). There are also a number of other benefits including paid training, private healthcare and childcare vouchers.

Am I eligible?
In order to become a functional assessor you will need to be an NMC registered nurse with at least two years post-registration experience. Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists (with a current HPC registration) are also eligible to apply. You will also need strong oral and written communication skills and confident interpersonal abilities. This can be demonstrated through a record of showing empathy and respect to patients, as well as delivering a high level of service to the people you work with and treat.

Due to the nature of the role, honesty, integrity and adherence to customer and authority confidentiality are also very important. IT skills are a must, along with a willingness to travel where necessary.  Finally, any previous experience of functional or disability assessment or diversity/disability awareness training would be advantageous for candidates wanting to take up the role.

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