Dr Vanessa Rogers was appointed as a Salaried Medical Member of the First-tier Tribunal, Social Entitlement Chamber (SSCS) in November 2011.

“After working as a GP and Dermatology Clinical Assistant, as well as a fee-paid medical member for 16 years, in November 2011, I started work as one of six new salaried medical members for the tribunal. I decided to apply for the role because I had always enjoyed my tribunal work and, with my children growing up, I was ready for a fresh challenge.    

“I sit four days a week, across the North East, hearing up to six Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or eight Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) appeals in a day. For ESA cases, the judicial panel comprises just myself and a judge, while for DLA cases a member with expertise in disability is also on the panel. All members of the panel contribute to the decision as to whether to award the benefit, while as the medical member I have an additional responsibility to interpret and explain medical terms and diagnoses to the other members. The judge has a similar role in applying the law and explaining legal issues, while the disability qualified member does the same for disability matters. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as joint problems, and chronic fatigue syndrome are some of the most common conditions brought to the tribunal, but I also see very rare conditions occasionally.

“I spend one day a week on administrative duties. My role also involves delivering appraisal and training to fee-paid medical members in my area.

“Taking on unfamiliar tasks such as appraisal and training has been stimulating and I have continued to find tribunal work very rewarding. These decisions can make a huge difference to people's lives.

“I found the JAC selection process quite demanding. It was very different to applying for medical posts. The process entailed completing a fairly long application form followed by an interview in London. The approach needed for the application was unfamiliar to me, with the emphasis on presenting examples of your past performance which demonstrated the specific qualities they were looking for.

“The advice on the form and the JAC website was very helpful in this regard. The interview was held in London at the Ministry of Justice which I found slightly intimidating, but the interview panel – comprising a salaried medical member, a judge and a JAC member – put me at my ease. I was given 30 minutes prior to the interview to read some scenarios and associated questions, and then questioned about these in the interview. Again, the aim was to allow me to demonstrate the qualities they were looking for.

“I would advise future applicants not to be put off by the unfamiliarity of the selection process. It is designed to be fair and to allow you to demonstrate your suitability for the role. There is a lot of advice and information available via the JAC website and it is worth spending some time there seeing what is available.”