The Paradox of BT’s Occupational Health Service

“But how will I eat cake if my head is over there, and my hands are over here?”
Marie Antoinette

An interesting decision has just been published on the Pension Ombudsman website.  It concerns Mr E versus British Telecommunications PLC and involves ill-health and medical retirement.

The paradox here is that BT wanted it’s cake and to eat it.  It wanted to dismiss someone due to ill-health but it didn’t want to pay that person the injury benefit that person was entitled to.

Mr E complained that BT, his former employer, refused to award him BT’s medical retirement benefits.  The Pensions Ombudsman found in favour of Mr E and told BT to do it properly.

Displaying the arrogance mostly seen by police pension authorities, BT didn’t like the fact the PO was making a decision in the case.  With unabashed chutzpah, BT submitted that the employee benefit is not within jurisdiction of the PO because it is neither an “occupational pension scheme” nor a “personal pension scheme”.

Dismissing BT’s argument with savagery, the PO clearly stated that such matters are within it’s remit:

The right to bring a complaint to the Ombudsman, is a statutory right to complain to a body established by the Pension Schemes Act 1993, which seems to me to fall squarely within that exclusion.

Play for the ball BT! … never go for the man – or indeed the referee!  Meaning: assess the point of law but don’t go making a proclamation that the referee shouldn’t be on the pitch.  This desperation shows their argument is lost already and shows them up as idiots.

Anyway, back to Mr E.

BT refused his ill-health retirement on the basis that their Occupation Health Service (OHS) “deemed Mr E was not suffering from ill health and that he was not permanently incapacitated as other treatments were not exhausted”.

This is exactly the issue facing those injured on duty and on long term sick from police duties. Not having exhausted all treatment options is an often repeated mantra to deny permanency.

The trouble with BT’s claim (that Mr E had not already exhausted all treatment options) was that he had already been dismissed on grounds of capability due to ill health.  Before the PO got involved, he had taken BT to the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and unlawful deductions of wages. The matter was settled with an agreement and BT paid him £106,750.

But BT obviously had the hump and decided to prolong the misery for longer.

So what did the PO say about BT’s duplicity?  The skulduggery of, on the one hand dismissing someone for ill-health, and on the other saying his ill-health wasn’t sufficient to pay a medical benefit?

The PO adjudicator said although BT through their OHS had stated that alternative treatments were available, the OHS did not state what outcome, on the balance of probabilities, these treatments would produce for Mr E.

BT did not ask their OHS this simple question.  In other words just saying there’s treatments available isn’t enough.

The OHS used a doctor named  Dr Lichfield.  This occupational health doctor made a general statement that he thought improved medical management would not suggest that Mr E remains incapacitated.  Dr Lichfield said:

Mr [E] appeared not to have undergone the full range of treatments for his condition and, in particular, that he had not seen a mental health specialist

Again, back to injury awards, this is a common statement found in SMP reports that refuse applications for ill-health retirements.

The PO considered the medical opinion of Dr Lichfield as not sufficient as it wasn’t good enough.  OHS and BT needed to establish what Mr E’s prognosis would be if he completed the entire course of available treatments.  And they hadn’t done that so the complaint was upheld.

This decision has overlap into the world of injury awards.  It shows the PO isn’t frightened off when an organisation challenges his jurisdiction.  It also shows that a medical opinion is not good enough when that decision is based on the wrong question, or the reasoning behind the decision was either absent or poorly explained.

Well done Pension Ombudsman.

The Paradox of BT’s Occupational Health Service
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7 thoughts on “The Paradox of BT’s Occupational Health Service

  • 2017-02-01 at 3:12 pm

    I had that same old “there is a gap in your treatment” line from the SMP I saw. This SMP was not a specialist, and chose two ignore evidence from TWO concurring specialist consultants.~
    Despite my injury being a physical injury, the SMP insisted that I was seen by a psychologist … insisting “a psychologist can teach you to block pain signals to your brain” (Quote)… What. The. Actual.XXXX ?
    In recent years Hampshire Constabulary has brought in a new procedure whereby EVERY police officer applying for Ill health retirement must see a psychologist or psychiatrist BEFORE they are even allowed to see the SMP, even when the evidence presented relates to a physical injury or recognised physical medical condition, and in cases where there are no records showing mental illness ….
    If ever there existed an example of wholesale institutional disability discrimination, that is it.
    Congratulations Hampshire Constabulary…you win my discrimination of the year award for that little gem…. hope you feel proud of acting so despicably !

  • 2017-02-01 at 11:42 am

    My My, this does so much remind me of my very own previous Farce, the Dear Old Avon Trotters & Somerset cops and robbers gang.
    Who would ever have thought that a public body, would sack, retire, force out, call it what you will, experienced Officers, because they may have had an injury that could have impinged upon their normal service, and then years down the line come to regret their own decision.
    As the dear old most highly paid FMO in the country, put it himself, ” This was largely due to their own failed policy ”
    But this was all due to Money.
    It always comes down to Money.
    You see, Southfork was well under construction in those days, and money was tight.
    Who can forget the 30 miles a shift embargo!
    So, how do you increase the complement, without increasing the manpower budget.
    Well, that’s easy Rodders.
    You fire, sack, retire, everyone that has so much as broken toe nail, forcibly, and then you get young one’s for half price Rodders.
    Yep, 144 of em in 1993/94 and 166 in 95/96 while the Government Rodders pays for the Injury Pension.
    Think of the Money Rodders. Luvvly Jubbly.
    Everyone’s appy. They still get their dough, we get two for one, and we can keep on track.
    Isnt that wrong though Del Boy?
    Well, it does seem that nearly every other farce did not have good old Boyseys accountant, and backed away from it.
    Trouble is, in 2000, dear old Tony had to pay for another War, and told all the Farces they had to pay for their pension commitments.
    Hmm, bit of a problem, that largely went unnoticed, until the people of Avon and Somerset decided that they would like someone whose business experience was to destroy and bankrupt a perfectly good bakery chain, to run the finances of the local cops and robbers.
    So in 2014, she moans to the Government about all these useless Police Pensioners, who provide zero input into the local community, and look how many she’s got.
    Far more than anyone else around, and well it’s just not right or fair.
    Of course no one actually wants to say, well actually, that was our fault. We kicked them all down the road like an empty can, all in the space of 3 years.
    So she starts a campaign, to do exactly what BT did to Mr E, only she is not particularly bothered with the rules, and would prefer to make up her own, together with her stooges.
    The PO is going to be a busy boy soon.
    The courts will be busy too.
    You see, I never asked for this. Never applied for this. I was kicked down the road without any notice.
    No paperwork, nothing.
    Just, thanks, but no thanks.
    Mr E well done!

  • 2017-02-01 at 10:38 am

    Another great blog by IODPA!

    What these organisations and their SMP’s don’t seem to realise is that even people with physical injuries end up having mental health problems because of all the bullying and the harrassing that go on when it comes to them not wanting to pay out any injury pensions, or as iittle as possible. If they would just follow the pensions law and stick to the regulations involved they would be saving all the money they waste in SMP charges and legal fees.

  • 2017-02-01 at 4:21 am

    Classic,abuse the individual, treat them like a number in a vain attempt to save a few quid. It all seams strangely familiar, give your life to the plod and they will abuse you to the end. Google morale compass and then wonder how they sleep at night. .Excellent blog and yet again bang on the nail.

  • 2017-01-30 at 12:39 pm

    Indeed, an excellent blog, it would appear that ” you have not exhausted all medical options’ is used by forces, when initially going to see the Force GP. Forces GP don’t care about the individual and its all about saving some money!! shame on them all!

    When will ‘they’ do right from doing wrong!!

  • 2017-01-26 at 6:41 pm

    Firstly, thank you taking the time and effort to produce this blog and cascade the requiste knowledge to injured police pensioners and anyone else who has an interest.

    The blog is well researched, informative and analytical.

    The problem is some Chief Constables have failed to appreciate the issues. Unlawful reviews have implications including losing ones home and becoming destitute. We owe those who have put themselves in harms way and those who have walked in shoes others would not want to an immeasurable debt of gratitude. The mental and physical effects are unimaginable.

    Chief Constables or some of them need to grip the issue. Look at Northumbria, numerous defeats at the High Court. Yet their principle Solicitor Nicholas Wirz has resurrected the unlawful Home Office Guidance deemed unlawful by the Simpson case. The Home Office have communicated the withdrawal of the guidance to all forces stating that the regs and case law are the guidance. Mr Wirz has set up guidance through the National Attendance Management Forum……the phoenix from the Ashes.

    Saving money is a fallacy, two professions have benefited, the Dr’s who act as SMPs and the PMAB who hear appeals and not to mention the Barristers instructed by Police Forces who have continously lost High Court Cases. These costs have eroded any perceived savings. Come on ACPO, please grip this as some of your HR and Legal. Services don’t get it.

  • 2017-01-26 at 2:54 pm

    Indeed, well done. Its obviously an issue across the board on how injured employees are treated.

    This is refreshing to see that there is an independent body out there overseeing our pensions.

    Good blog IODPA and thank you for keeping an eye out on relevant issues.

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