“Of course it’s the same old story. Truth usually is the same old story.”
― Margaret Thatcher
Truth is the same old story. That’s the truth by the way, and not the spin of Avon & Somerset. It is almost 12 months since the 12th and 13th of November 2014 when, of the first group of 16 band fours (all the youngest of those receiving an IOD award and after waiting 6 months already), a subset of 6 were forced to see the selected medical practitioner (SMP), Dr Johnson, at the occupational health unit at Portishead. At £500 per IOD, Dr Johnson invoiced at least £3000 ( expenses an extra of course) for 2 days of work.
None of these 6 unfortunates have received a final decision from Dr Philip Johnson. Twelve months of incompetence, dishonesty and deceit.
Quite a few were told that this is a ‘2 stage process’ and ‘there may be no need to see the SMP’; whilst all the time the Janus-faced HR managers of Avon & Somerset and the force medical officer had always craftily fully intended to push all 16 in front of Johnson for reasons given below in this post and ‘test’ their processes. The 6 seen in the 2nd week of November 2014 were the forlorn – the guinea pigs of the 16 guinea pigs.
Avon & Somerset HR would be eager to tell anyone listening that the apathetic delay is no fault of theirs. That they have been acting within the Regulations throughout, that their actions are beyond reproach and that it is the fault of the IODs and those that have advised them. Blame the victim for being a victim – isn’t this the first rule of ‘101 Rules on How to be a Bully’?
But the truth is more prosaic. There is no poetic narrative that allows A&S to spin this in a positive light. They have royally cocked up. A correctly managed review under Regulation 37 should take no more than 3 months from start to finish.
Dr Johnson is still adamant that if the force wants him to review someone then he has determined that he has absolute rights to have full medical records since birth as he needs to ‘understand the reason for the retirement’.
It is strange then that the same force using Johnson has sent those IODs lucky enough not to see Johnson to other SMPs who are happy and content to accept partial medical records only since the date of last decision. Why the inconsistency? Easy. It’s because Johnson has set his position in stone with a few individuals and if he accepts partial notes with others whilst refusing to make a decision on those he (and A&S) wants to perform a fresh assessment upon, he will not be able justify the juxtaposition.
We all know by now that when a review is held it is unlawful to conduct an entirely fresh assessment of degree of disablement. Note to A&S: That is not IODPA’s opinion, it is the pronouncement of the High Court. Please read the case of SIMPSON, where it was determined,
‘ I accept Mr Lock’s submission that the SMP and the PMAB cannot conduct a fresh review of the uninjured earning capacity and the actual earning capacity of the former officer and then, comparing the outcome of that assessment with the previously determined degree of disablement, conclude that there has been an alteration in the former officer’s degree of disablement.’
There is no justification for a SMP demanding access to full medical records since birth to ‘understand’ the reason why the IOD was given in the first place, as the degree of disablement, the disablement itself, and the reasoning and/or medical evidence which was used to arrive at those decisions are not open to question or challenge.
The singular question requested of a SMP at review is whether has been any alteration in degree of disablement. But Dr Johnson seems not to understand, or to care. He doesn’t like the Regulations, so he thinks he can ignore them.
The Regulations and caselaw demand stability and finality.
In other words there is no devil’s advocate position of asking ‘why not just give Johnson what he wants’. Johnson is not required to ‘get in the mind’ and understand the logic of the previous SMP that either retired or last reviewed the IOD.
As the regulations say,
The decision of the selected medical practitioner on the question or questions referred to him under this regulation shall be expressed in the form of a report and shall, subject to regulations 31 and 32, be final.
And stated by Justice Burton in Turner v PMAB
It is important from the point of view of disputes such as pension entitlement that a decision once made should be final if at all possible, and that is what is provided by these Regulations
Continued by Lord Justice Laws in the Belinda Laws appeal
The real truth of it is that A&S have lost or destroyed quantities of occupational health files and other personal records, dating back in some instances to when the individuals concerned were retired, many years ago. This force has 490 IODs but A&S seem to have lost the majority of files it has on these people.
Where they have files they whinge that they are unable to read the handwriting of the doctors who were involved in the grant of injury awards. Why would they need to? There is no lawful reason. The truth behind why Johnson wants full medical records is that he simply can’t accept that he has to conform to the law. He wants to second-guess final decisions which are not there to be questioned. Remember that Johnson was drafted in by his ‘mate’ Dr Bulpitt, the force medical officer. These 2 sat together and devised the current ‘procedures’ to review people and Dr Johnson is therefore their main agent.
Bulpitt no doubt would like to have all the medical records he mistakenly thinks he is entitled to and therefore to rebuild the stocks of the ones the force has either lost or destroyed. What better way than to get the IOD, his or herself, to willingly provide all the medical records the force should have retained in the first place. And whilst at it, they can use the newly gleaned information to have another pop at apportionment and causation.
This is why the other 2 SMPs used in 2014 kept to their remit in regard to disclosure and were quite content with only partial records. They were ‘contracted’ in and had no involvement or desire to join in the schemes of Bulpitt to rebuild his library of medical records. Each of these managed to finalise their own reports expeditiously, showing what a true laggard Johnson really is.
Why has a force such as Avon & Somerset been so lackadaisical with pertinent medical data of those it has retired?
Police Public bodies do not have a great track record on data protection and A&S is a particular offender that has allowed personal medical data of retired officers to ‘disappear’.
Arguably Avon & Somerset has lost medical records and personnel files as it didn’t want to be burnt with the potent stuff written within.
So Bulpitt wants another pop in getting all the medical history without the nasty (to him) truth that complicates his job of what truly happened when the person was originally retired. (Shamefully, illegality with regard to injury awards isn’t a new thing in Portishead police HQ. It seems they have been up to their devious tricks for quite a long time, and repeatedly the names of the same
offenders HR people keep cropping up).
Why stop there? They no doubt thought. Why not have another go at the full decision itself ! Could this be the reason why no person who saw Johnson on the week in mid November 2014 has had a decision. Has Bulpitt and Johnson realised that not only are they skating on thin ice but in fact they have slipped into the depths of pure illegality, both by breaching the Regulations but also the data protection act? A 18 month time period does not strike of a public authority with the confidence to defend a decision.
So in mid October 2015 it is the same old story. A&S thinks it can carry on regardless by continued procrastination, it shows no remorse, it hides behind a cloud of obfuscation and thinks no one is noticing that they have been ruining peoples lives for 18 months.
The baffling thing is that they somehow still believe if they send letters to IODs so far unaffected, that they will happily trot along with their plans without a second thought.
Even if A&S wakes up to what it has done, the damage to its reputation is already insurmountable. What IOD will now place themselves helplessly in the jaws of such a monster?
Tell your version of the truth to whomever will listen A&S, no one will believe you any more.