Aunty Sophia is a redoubtable woman and a very good cook. Ask her anything about food and she will have the answer, from how to make the perfect Eggs Benedict to how Spaghetti Bolognese does not exist in Italy.
She will explain, with an exasperated sigh, that in Bologna they make a minced beef ragù with minced pork, onions, celery, carrots, wine and other ingredients, which is served tossed through Tagliatelle, Fettuccine or the wider Pappardelle, but (and at this point her voice raises in volume and a finger wags admonishingly) it is never, never, served with spaghetti.
She is scathing about the globalisation of cuisine. She simply refuses to accept that Cheddar cheese can be made in Australia, Canada, and even Scotland, and yet legally be called Cheddar. Yes, it is cheese, but it can not be proper Cheddar cheese.
The same goes for Parmesan. In Italy, one is judged by how good is the Parmesan you serve to your guests. It has to be authentic, for it is not unknown for unscrupulous retailers to pass off lesser hard cheeses as genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano. What really gets Italian Aunty Sophia’s goat is the deep suspicion that Parmesan is now being made in China. Chinese Parmesan! Oddio! Che cosa sta succedendo? What’s going on!
Aunty’s amazement and utter rejection of Chinese Parmesan is so often expressed by her that it has become a sort of meme within her family. If something is not right, fake, a deception or just plain out crooked, then it is ‘Chinese Parmesan’.
Which inevitably brings us to focus on selected cheesy medical practitioners who take on the role of SMP.
For new readers, a Selected Medical Practitioner (‘SMP’) is a doctor, usually qualified in the branch of medicine known as occupational health, who is selected and paid by a police pension authority to make medical assessments and medical decisions in connection with fitness to work and, especially, decisions affecting the pension rights of serving and former police officers.
IODPA is usually very critical of SMPs. With good reason. Whenever IODPA lists their numerous shortcomings, exposes their woeful ignorance of the police pension regulations, or when we report on how they deliberately flout data protection law, then IODPA will name and shame, but always in the spirit of constructive criticism. IODPA hopes, perhaps forlornly, that exposure of SMP’s deficiencies might encourage them, and their paymasters to realise they need to change their ways and begin to conduct themselves lawfully and ethically.
Unusually, in this article we are not going to recount some new or repeated wrongdoing by a corrupt or incompetent SMP. I’d be spoiled for choice. Instead we are going to sing the praises of one doctor who fulfills the role of SMP in a caring and professional manner.
Several of our members have told IODPA that this doctor is a rarity. An honest and impartial SMP. A round of noble Stilton on a table groaning with counterfeit Camembert, fake Feta, analogue pizza cheese substitute, and ersatz Emmental.
IODPA has heard nothing but praise for the professional and respectful way medical examinations and interviews have been conducted. Decisions made have been in tune with the medical facts and have thus been acceptable. The strict requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation have been adhered to. Members report no objections or difficulties being raised when being accompanied by a chaperone or helper, nor to sessions being recorded.
This doctor demonstrates that the police injury and ill health regulations are not difficult to understand or to apply. The regulations do not require that a SMP holds a law degree or that the SMP should act as though they were a presiding magistrate or High Court Judge. The role of the SMP can be described as simply as this – interview and examine an individual as necessary with the objective to identifying illness or injury which might erode an individual officer’s ability to carry out the full range of duties required of a constable, and, in the case of former officers in receipt of an injury pension, determine whether there has been any alteration in their degree of disablement.
A SMP is there to consider the medical evidence – not just from their own examination and interview, but all evidence supplied by the individual, such as reports from eminent specialists, consultants and grounded GPs.
The SMP delivers a decision on certain medical questions which are contained in the various regulations.
The questions, so far as the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 are concerned come down to these:
(a) whether the person concerned is disabled (or totally disabled);
(b) whether the disablement (or total disablement) is likely to be permanent;
(c) whether the disablement is the result of an injury received in the execution of duty, and;
(d) the degree of the person’s disablement.
On rare occasions a SMP may be asked to revisit a decision made by a different SMP, who for whatever reason is not able or willing to reconsider their decision themselves (commonly known as a Regulation 32(3)).
The SMP we are praising has had to address all of these questions and has done so consistently, with no apparent difficulty and without giving any cause for either the individual concerned, or the police pension authority to feel that some skulduggery was involved.
Anyone can make mistakes, but there is a world of difference between genuine unintentional error and the sort of ‘error’ that some SMPs make, hoping they won’t be noticed, and therefore drive a 987 horsepower Bugatti Veyron through the regulations. Errors, which the offending SMP’s police pension authority will inevitably do their utmost to deny.
We have to say that the SMP, who we thank and congratulate here, is first and foremost a caring human being who happens to be a doctor, who happens to work as a SMP. His or her work is in glowing contrast to the Machiavellian manoeuvrings of other SMPs whose behaviour strays right across the spectrum from careless inability, incompetence, ineptitude, and inexperience through to full-on criminal intent to defraud.
We haven’t named this doctor, for we fear the powers that be would find some excuse to dispense with his or her services. Sounds far-fetched? Not a bit of it. Ill-intentioned police pension authorities have successfully driven out nearly all honest and decent SMPs, who have been replaced with the Chinese Parmesan type of doctors who Italian Aunty Sophia would readily sniff out and scornfully reject as not the real deal.
She would say, ‘Where you find Chinese Parmesan, there you will also find a useless Chef.’