The Wisdom of the Pension Ombudsman

“He who establishes his argument by noise and command, shows that his reason is weak.”
Michel de Montaigne

In 2016, the months of September and October has seen two interesting decisions handed down by the Pension Ombudsman (PO).  In both decisions it is clear the arrogance of the pension authority involved led them to think the forcefulness of their command would conceal the lack of reason within.

One decision concerns Thames Valley Police and how this force (and vicariously by the SMPs they appointed) incorrectly apportioned an on-duty injury by trying to imply that the complainant, Ms E, had a pre-existing vulnerability to mental illness.  The infamous  Dr Cheng is in the centre of this particular stagnant mire.

The second Pension Ombudsman decision we are going to discuss here isn’t about police injury awards but it does involve ill-health retirement.  Mr Y complained to the Pensions Ombudsman that NGF Europe Pension Fund’s refusal of an ill-health early retirement pension was maladministration.  The Ombudsman upheld Mr Y’s complaint and directed the employer to make the decision again.

The points raised by the PO in these decisions have huge implications for police forces. Each will be discussed but let us first look at Mr Y’s case.

The PO found that NGF relied too much on it’s own occupation health clinician and ignored the expert opinion of the patient’s own clinicians:

NGF’s view that it is entitled to prefer its medical advisers’ opinions when there is a conflict of opinion between them and those of Mr Y’s GP and the consultant treating him, demonstrates that NGF saw its medical advisers’ own opinions of Mr Y’s state of health as at least equal to those of a specialist in a particular field of medicine. https://www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk/determinations/2016/po-13059/ngf-europe-pension-fund/

Effectively, the PO is saying employers can not simply rely on the recommendations  of their own ‘in-house’ medical advisers and that it is not…

“[…] rational to give considerable weight to a prediction that had not been fully explored and was outside the adviser’s remit”. https://www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk/determinations/2016/po-13059/ngf-europe-pension-fund/

The decision says that, whether or not the employer (or regards to injury awards, the police pension authority) is understandably concerned about if the treating doctors of the patient have understood the definition of total incapacity, it can not give undue considerable weight to the opinion of it’s own assessor.

How often is a one-sided view taken by a SMP?  Every-time that SMP is trained or advised by certain elements within NAMF is the answer.

It is a well recorded fact that often SMPs deliberately disregard what a former officer’s General Practitioner or treating consultant have said.  Indeed Nicolas Wirz, solicitor for Northumbria police has been so unguarded as to write in his NAMF approved ‘guidance’ to SMPs that:

SMPs are likely to be more skilled at resolving disputes of medical fact [Para 4.12 POLICE PENSIONS (SMP) DEVELOPMENT EVENT 31 JANUARY 2014 MR NICHOLAS WIRZ PRESENTATION]

and

A common occurrence is for the treating physician to “fudge” the issue [Para 4.14 POLICE PENSIONS (SMP) DEVELOPMENT EVENT 31 JANUARY 2014 MR NICHOLAS WIRZ PRESENTATION]

In other words, a highly qualified, experienced specialist consultant’s opinion is nothing compared to that of some money-grabbing quack who has jumped on the gravy train of doing SMP work. Moreover, said consultant will be biased, whereas the SMP will be squeaky clean unbiased.

Come off it Wirzy-boy, pull the other one, it’s got bells on. Do you really think that you can fool anyone other than the intellectually-challenged likes of Cheng and Nightingale, etc. with this sort of manure? You have got dear old Karen thinking she is a High Court Judge who can ‘direct’ people to do her bidding, and good old Billy Chung Wing prefers not to engage his brain other than to remember where he has stashed all his illicit earnings. The rest of the medical profession have wisely elected to give SMP work a wide berth because of you.

But we digress – the case of Mr Y shows that the PO disagrees with Mr Wirz.  In fact it leaves Mr Wirz’s claims naked.  His imagined invention of an aura of being ‘judicially all-powerful’ is simply his cloak for SMPs to wear. Cloaks that make them feel better about themselves.  Not only delusional cloaks, if cloaks can be delusional, but clearly not in accordance with fact that the SMP is acting as an employer’s agent.

An agent with a role defined in statute – but an agent of an employer nonetheless.

The SMP is no more a presiding judge than, say, a Custody Sergeant with his duties defined in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.

The PO declared that when it comes to Mr Y’s ill-health retirement there were relevant questions which should have been asked and that the employer and his medical adviser should not apply a selective restriction to the reports provided by the patient’s clinicians.

The PO’s decision could be exactly applied to the erroneous methodology preached by Wirz.  The PO has said it is wrong for pension authorities, like NGF, to only take into account its medical advisers’ opinions as this, by it’s nature, will also take in irrelevant considerations.

So yet again the proclamations of Nicholas Wirz are proved wrong – SMPs must resist being brainwashed by the outpourings from this darkly dubious source into thinking the Regulations are too complex for the patient’s clinicians to comprehend.  If the SMP has suspicions the clinician doesn’t understand the statutory question then he shall not dismiss the opinion outright, he should seek clarification.  Put plainly, the PO says they should just ask:

It would not have been difficult to ask them, but this was not done; https://www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk/determinations/2016/po-13059/ngf-europe-pension-fund/

In the PO’s judgement NGF Europe held a dismissive view of important reports and it was wrong for it to claim that it had enough evidence already and clarification was unnecessary.  This arrogance conveys the impression that the decision not to award a total incapacity pension had already been made.

And so, onto the decision in respect of Ms E’s complaint to the PO.

This concerned the granting of an original injury award.  The first SMP, Dr Leeming-Latham, made the  decision to apportion Ms E’s injury benefit on nothing more substantial than than the appearance of a single entry in her GP’s notes dating from 1988 stating, “Depressional neurosis”.

Despite being told that a reconsideration of Dr Leeming-Latham ‘s decision (under regulation 32) would be a paper exercise, Ms E had the unfortunate experience of attending an appointment with Dr Cheng.  Not only did Dr Cheng think the apportionment applied by Leeming-Latham was reasonable but he also considered the 1988 notes demanded an apportionment bedfellow, and commented that:

general formal grievances that were not upheld and disciplinary proceedings should not be classified as an injury on duty”. https://www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk/determinations/2016/po-5477/police-injury-benefit-scheme/

You can see how Dr Cheng’s brain was working … when you are asked to review a complaint of inappropriate apportionment, why stop at one.  Why not add further apportionment and then you can try to apportion the whole award away?

Seizing the chance with both hands to go gaga full-bore crazy, Dr Cheng continued by saying Ms E actually had a problem with her wrist, which was incorrect.  On top of all this Ms E had expressed concern her papers might have been mixed up with someone else’s. She also said that Dr Cheng had told her he never gave anyone a 100% degree of disablement.

This was all taken to a PMAB, where the basis for the appeal was that Ms E disputed Dr Cheng’s opinion that her disablement placed her in Band Two for an injury award.

Ms E won the appeal and was awarded a band three award.  The PMAB found Dr Cheng was wrong and concluded that the psychological impairment arising from perceptions of work events were the only factor contributing to permanent disablement and that apportionment was not appropriate.

A victory against the odds!  The PO mentioned in his judgement that Ms E raised concerns that the PMAB appeared to exhibit bias.  Ms E specifically called into question the unnecessary time delays, the lack of female presence, that there was no mention at the hearing of her being put under surveillance while on sick leave, nothing submitted relating disciplinary proceedings whilst she was on sick leave and the horrendous situation of the conflict of interest that existed as TVP’s Pensions Manager and Dr Cheng both sat on the national HR board for the PMAB.  Ms E was awarded £750 for all the maladministration.

And now we can weave together the similarity between Ms E’s decision and Mr Y’s.

Just like NGF Europe Pension Fund’s modus operandi, both TVP and the PMAB “cherry picked” Ms E’s documents.  Favourable reports from a Dr Logsdail were not considered and personal development reviews, papers relating to her grievances, newspaper articles criticising her, and emails from senior staff criticising her were all ignored by Dr Cheng and the PMAB.

Sound familar?  TVP, as a pension authority, had a duty not to have a predetermined decision in mind.  But they used Cheng and Leeming-Latham to get the result they wanted by ignoring everything that contradicted their point of view.

This is exactly what the PO is getting at in the decision of Mr Y.

The simple message for all police pension authorities is to keep this in mind: you only get one chance to do things right the first time.

Why not dispense with your biased SMPs and save money and improve the quality of injury award decisions by making fewer mistakes and learning more from those you do make.  Tell the SMPs you use to look objectively at all the evidence placed in front of them.  Stop using Dr Cheng and the number of appeals will plummet.

This means also put the Book of NAMF in the bin where it belongs.

It must be better, quietly and without fuss, noise and bluster, to aim to get things right in the first place rather than having to forced to put them right through expensive appeal and complaint processes. You may well think that the likes of Cheng and Wirz save you money. You would be wrong to think that. The legal challenges you are facing now are only the tip of the iceberg.

The Wisdom of the Pension Ombudsman
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14 thoughts on “The Wisdom of the Pension Ombudsman

  • 2016-11-18 at 6:18 pm
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    Excellent blog that reflects the true reality of what these corrupt and immoral people are upto. Its not just SMPs but FMA and so called Psychiatrists payed for by the police. Between them all they came very close to killing me, as they mocked me, lied about me and humiliated me. One called Pitkannen after manipulating me told “don’t throw yourself under a train on the way home”, she smiled and showed me out. I came very close that day and others. People that take money to lie are criminals its called fraud.

  • 2016-11-15 at 8:28 pm
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    I’m a medically retired Thames valley officer, I’ve not been reviewed in ten years, retired on 100% ( after appeal). PTSD and chronic anxiety is bad enough without still dreading the post every day, waiting for the letter to arrive that will subject me to this debacle. This isn’t what I was promised when I signed up to uphold the law. If this is what the police family is like then this is a highly disfunctional family. All we want is to be treated with respect and dignity.

  • 2016-11-15 at 7:11 pm
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    For your IOD officers information, the web addresses to report complaints about Force solicitors, SMP’s and ‘non biased’ medical ‘specialists ‘ is as follows:
    Solicitors: The Solicitors Regulation Authority: http://www.sra.org.uk
    GMC: The General Medical Council: http://www.gmc-uk.org

    The more complaints these professional regulators receive, the less they can ignore. Understandably, many individuals will not feel well enough to fight but take a second wind and get back in the ring! Some of the corrupt, immoral and unethical individuals your site exposes are already under investigation. Further complaints will provide evidence of their corrupt and unprofessional behaviour. Many retired officers have been subject to humiliating , non-compassionate so called ‘medical assessments’ by SMPs and PMAB appointed ‘specialists’ in their condescending virtual protected world. The injured officers underlying medical problems have often been exacerbated by these ‘doctors’. A sociologist would have a field day observing these social and organisational identity freaks! Retired officers attempt to deal with the original injuries that impact not only on themselves but their partners and families …..oh and then along comes the PPA intent on screwing them, Wirz and SMP’s with their merry band of HR men and women and of course Dr Wallington (PMAB), yet another money grabbing quack who is a legend in his own mind oblivious that intellectual people can see through this dimwit! Their intention is to ‘save money’ for the PPA whilst stacking up their own pension pot! Watch this space………..will they get jobs back in general practice hahah.
    I wonder how the public would react if it were military personnel that were treated in such a way? Is the police service being used as a blue print for obliterating the future pensions of the rest of the public services and military who are injured on duty?

  • 2016-11-15 at 5:20 pm
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    It is my belief that the Chief Constable of each Force or Service is the overseer of the IOD and IHR process, this function is delegated from the Chief Officer to Human Resources to deal with Policing Boards,Pension Authorities and SMP’s. Is it a question of vicarious liability when it becomes a potential matter of Malfeasence or Misfiseance in Public Office?

  • 2016-11-15 at 2:02 pm
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    There should be a criminal investigation into the processes adopted by Police Forces into their handling and overseeing of the Injury and ill health process. Chief Constables who oversee these processes and encourage the criminal behaviour of these few SMPs and HR departments need to be brought to account. The whole sorry process should be debated in the House Of Commons and the repeated unlawful decisions, despite caselaw, should be reported in the papers and on News 24.
    The Federation should also act and tell the Government that their members will no longer engage with the review process while it is being pursued so unlawfully! It would be a just action!
    Enough is enough!

  • 2016-11-15 at 1:13 pm
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    This is one of the best composed blogs thus far, they are all excellent but this speaks in plain terms to Police Pension Authorities and is telling the truth, the likes of Wirz et al and SMP’s who ignore the regs and legislation will cost you much more in the end. Every time some of these SMP’s who are not consultants in every specialist field ignore the reports of those who are and end up at PMAB’s, Pensions Ombudsman and eventually a Judicial Review they are still getting paid by the tax payer. Why not keep it simple and stick to the regulations and case law? You are costing the taxpayers money and causing unnecessary distress to injured officers. Have you no shame or fiscal management responsibility?

  • 2016-11-15 at 12:01 pm
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    One of the things I don’t understand is why Police Forces have to use agencies to provide SMP’s for dealing with IOD officers. The cost of running such an agency can only seriously expand the cost of an assessment. Surely there are enough GP’s in any area who would be willing to do IHR and IOD reviews? I know that using agencies must be less work for HR departments but it would be less distressing for anyone going for IHR or a review these days to know that they are being seen by a practising GP and not being sent to see someone who doesn’t give a damn about them and is only there to work at reducing their IOD pension by any means whatsoever that they think they can get away with!

    The reputations of certain SMP’s are becoming well known, thanks to IODPA.org. The seedy dealings are also becoming well known!

    I have a suspicion that some of these SMP’s could actually be CAUSING symptoms of PTSD in the way they are dealing with permanently injured and disabled people who were just doing their job.

    I also think that there should now be a major investigation into certain SMP’s practices! A lot of the stories being discovered now are showing that this is not a new situation. Some of them are from years ago and the pensioners were not aware of their rights to appeal. They would just go away disgusted at what the SMP decision was and struggled to manage with a smaller pension than what they were legally entitled to.

    When I was injured on duty I lost everything, not just my job! This has been the case for many other IOD officers. The new ‘life’ we have to live forever after the injury is not taken into consideration in any way! At least we should be able to be honestly assessed according to the severity and consequences of the injuries we received and be awarded the correct IOD pension. We are, after all, being dealt with by supposed representatives of a Police Force! Surely they should have the morals and principles and honesty that is expected of every serving officer serving them?

    The great news is that we IOD pensioners now have someone who is counting, checking and overseeing these fraudulent and dishonest activities of certain SMP’s! the IODPA.org! Word is getting out and about more every day! Hopefully all will be put right now!

  • 2016-11-15 at 11:05 am
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    Can only add my voice to the ever growing list of victims seen by a certain Dr. C. Total disregard to my own GP and other specialists from the NHS. When I commented I was told that my option was to appeal. OH were close to useless and seemed to wash there hands of the situation. I guess it’s a case of he who pays the piper picks the tune…..

  • 2016-11-15 at 10:30 am
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    Time has come to call for a public enquiry into this sordid and dishonest little club that so many of these forces subscribe to. These are injured police officers that they’re screwing over. Officers who have put their lives and careers on the line to serve the public. They’re not after something for nothing, and deserve to be treated with honesty and compassion.

  • 2016-11-15 at 10:21 am
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    Smp’s are only interested in making money from meetings and appeals. Lucrative work for those acting as judge and jury such as Nightingale.
    She is a prime example of someone prepared to distort the facts to suit her own opinion.
    Doctors such as Wallington aren’t fit to sit in judgement on appeal hearings.
    It is time all meetings and hearings were recorded to demonstrate how many lies are told by these people.

  • 2016-11-14 at 11:20 pm
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    What dark forces are driving them? Why does the Home Office sit idly by why disabled former police officers are subject to unwarranted and often unlawful attacks which adversely effect their health and well being. Isn’t it time the whole debacle was stopped, all the as yet undetected wrongs put right as well as the misuse and waste of public money.

  • 2016-11-14 at 8:58 pm
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    May the soap that the Doctor (s) slip upon , be course and drying to the skin…..and that his bruises be large and oh! so painful !…also that he cannot make claim to the fact that the accommodation provided could be proven to have contributed to his fall thereby receiving compensation.

  • 2016-11-14 at 6:35 pm
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    I also had the issue of unlawful apportionment used at a Reg 37 review by the same idiot Dr LEEMING LATHAM back in 2006 and had it overturned by the PO in 2013, PO 103 refers, seems these doctors do not learn and neither do the PPAs and the HR etc that guide them. Clearly had TVP bothered to understand my PO decision they would not have subjected Mrs E similarly and for the same thing. LEEMING LATHAM has retired and I feel that CHENG may have to do so in the near future, with luck CHENG may be spending his retirement in cosy government approved accommodation where the only thing he may slip up upon in the future is the soap!

  • 2016-11-14 at 2:06 pm
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    Once again OUR champion ( IODPA) comes to the rescue ….and spells it out ….I think it is time that we either take formal action against the SMP and those Force’s who deliberately break the spirit of the Regulations. ( Complaints to the Medical Council, complaints to the Force /ultimately the Ombudsman/IPCC and some form of civil action against the SMP and the Force for persistent ” foul play “……perhaps it is time for the PF/NARPO to fund this course of action …..or is this wishful thing on my behalf ?

Comments are closed.

This group of police force HR managers, occupational health personnel and the odd force solicitor is supposedly concerned in its quarterly meetings with keeping the police workforce fit and well. The clue is in the name - it is supposed to concentrate on people who work. However, it spends time also considering matters relating to disabled former officers. Quite what legitimates this group's interest in disabled private citizens who are in receipt of a police injury pension is a mystery.

The mystery deepens when it is revealed that the Home Office and representatives of the commercial company which has the contract to run Police Medical Appeal Boards, HML, also regularly appear on the list of delegates. The mystery morphs into something smelling of conspiracy when the delegate list is entirely absent of any representative of any of the people whose lives the NAMF seeks to affect. There is nobody from the Police Federation, nor from NARPO, nor anyone from any disablement charity, mental health association, etc. etc. In other words, the NAMF is a one-sided talking shop. Even at that level it is not properly representative of all police forces, for we note that there are rarely, if ever, delegates present from every area.

Those of us with long memories, recollect that the Home Office claimed that it had conducted what it called a 'survey' of all forces, way back in 2004, prior to finalising its unlawful guidance issued as Annex C to HO circular 46/2004. The HO claimed that their survey showed that it was common practice for forces to review the degree of disablement of injury-on-duty pensioners once they reached what would have been normal force retirement age. This is what the guidance said:

'This Guidance is being issued to help ensure a fairer, more cohesive approach to the payment of injury benefits to ill-health retired officers who have reached the compulsory retirement age with their Force. A recent survey found that practice in this area was diverse. Some forces automatically reduced degree of disablement benefits to the lowest banding when this age had been reached - others continued to pay benefits at the same rate until the death of the Officer concerned.'

The plain truth, revealed through Freedom of Information Act requests, was that there never was any survey. The HO later tried to claim that the bold, unmistakable claim made in its guidance resulted from 'round the table discussions' at meetings of the NAMF. Yet nothing even hinting at such discussions appeared in the minutes and the HO could not produce a single scrap of data nor any record or any other evidence to show quite how it had come to the conclusion that some forces automatically reduced benefits to the lowest band at what would have been normal force retirement age.

Shockingly, further research revealed that absolutely no forces, not a single one out of the 43 in England and Wales, had ever reduced benefits to the lowest band at what would have been normal force retirement age, automatically or otherwise. The Home Office was caught out in a blatant lie. It was a lie intended for one purpose only - its actually intent was to give an air of normalcy to the huge change in practice which the HO wished to bring about.

This astounding act by a Government department tells us what the NAMF was then, and remains now. It's objective in so far as police injury on duty pensions is concerned, is to subvert the law of the land. The law cannot be changed retrospectively, so the inner circle work to find ways to unlawfully manipulate it through influencing gullible HR managers, and by training carefully selected corruptible SMPs how to refuse grant of an injury award and how to conduct reviews which reduce the degree of disablement of retired officers.

And so the machinations of the NAMF continue...

This group of police force HR managers, occupational health personnel and the odd force solicitor is supposedly concerned in its quarterly meetings with keeping the police workforce fit and well. The clue is in the name - it is supposed to concentrate on people who work. However, it spends time also considering matters relating to disabled former officers. Quite what legitimates this group's interest in disabled private citizens who are in receipt of a police injury pension is a mystery.

The mystery deepens when it is revealed that the Home Office and representatives of the commercial company which has the contract to run Police Medical Appeal Boards, HML, also regularly appear on the list of delegates. The mystery morphs into something smelling of conspiracy when the delegate list is entirely absent of any representative of any of the people whose lives the NAMF seeks to affect. There is nobody from the Police Federation, nor from NARPO, nor anyone from any disablement charity, mental health association, etc. etc. In other words, the NAMF is a one-sided talking shop. Even at that level it is not properly representative of all police forces, for we note that there are rarely, if ever, delegates present from every area.

Those of us with long memories, recollect that the Home Office claimed that it had conducted what it called a 'survey' of all forces, way back in 2004, prior to finalising its unlawful guidance issued as Annex C to HO circular 46/2004. The HO claimed that their survey showed that it was common practice for forces to review the degree of disablement of injury-on-duty pensioners once they reached what would have been normal force retirement age. This is what the guidance said:

'This Guidance is being issued to help ensure a fairer, more cohesive approach to the payment of injury benefits to ill-health retired officers who have reached the compulsory retirement age with their Force. A recent survey found that practice in this area was diverse. Some forces automatically reduced degree of disablement benefits to the lowest banding when this age had been reached - others continued to pay benefits at the same rate until the death of the Officer concerned.'

The plain truth, revealed through Freedom of Information Act requests, was that there never was any survey. The HO later tried to claim that the bold, unmistakable claim made in its guidance resulted from 'round the table discussions' at meetings of the NAMF. Yet nothing even hinting at such discussions appeared in the minutes and the HO could not produce a single scrap of data nor any record or any other evidence to show quite how it had come to the conclusion that some forces automatically reduced benefits to the lowest band at what would have been normal force retirement age.

Shockingly, further research revealed that absolutely no forces, not a single one out of the 43 in England and Wales, had ever reduced benefits to the lowest band at what would have been normal force retirement age, automatically or otherwise. The Home Office was caught out in a blatant lie. It was a lie intended for one purpose only - its actually intent was to give an air of normalcy to the huge change in practice which the HO wished to bring about.

This astounding act by a Government department tells us what the NAMF was then, and remains now. It's objective in so far as police injury on duty pensions is concerned, is to subvert the law of the land. The law cannot be changed retrospectively, so the inner circle work to find ways to unlawfully manipulate it through influencing gullible HR managers, and by training carefully selected corruptible SMPs how to refuse grant of an injury award and how to conduct reviews which reduce the degree of disablement of retired officers.

And so the machinations of the NAMF continue...