Case study

  • Date:
    June 2023
  • Category:
    Common medical conditions with respect to priority


C asked for an independent review of the council's decision about their community care grant. They had applied for a number of household items to furnish their new tenancy after a period of homelessness.

The council assessed that the application met the conditions for an award and awarded the items that they assessed met the necessary priority level. C requested a first tier review in respect of the items the council did not award, stating that they required a gas cooker instead of an electrical cooker for cultural reasons, and that they needed a double bed with orthopaedic mattress as they suffer from sciatica and nerve damage. The council partially changed their decision and awarded a gas cooker. They did not change their decision with regards to the bed, stating that there was insufficient evidence to determine that the priority level was met. The council attempted to gather information from the applicant's GP about the medical need for this item, but were unable to source this.

We received the council's case file and spoke with C for further information. We also spoke with C’s GP who confirmed that they suffer from back pain, sciatica, neck and arm pain. They advised that they had been attending physio and referred for further investigation, but could not give a view on whether an orthopaedic mattress would be of benefit for C. We then asked one of SPSO's independent GP advisers for general information about the benefits of a double bed over a single bed, and of an orthopaedic mattress for someone with C’s conditions. The GP adviser said that they preferred the term 'medium-firm' over ‘orthopaedic’ as a descriptor for the type of mattress required. They advised that the evidence suggests that a medium-firm mattress can help with back pain symptoms, improving sleep and quality of life. They further advised that a double bed would be beneficial as it is often difficult to find the right position and sleep often involves lots of moving around and spreading out. Taking this information into account, we assessed that a double bed with orthopaedic mattress met the necessary priority level and should be awarded. We instructed the council to make an award based on new information that was not reasonably available to them. We gave the council feedback on their written communications.

Updated: June 21, 2023