Regulation 37

Show Me The Money

Show Me The Money

Show me the money!

Tom Cruise in ‘Jerry Maguire’ (1996)

 

IODPA understands that Chief Constables are having a hard time currently. They have had to reduce their spending and learn how to manage with reduced budgets.

Budget cuts since 2011 up to 2015 amounted to a reduction of 20% in the amount allocated by the Home Office to policing. From 2015 more cuts were imposed.

According to estimates compiled by the National Audit Office, police funding fell from 2010/11 to 2018/19. Overall, funding fell by 19%, taking inflation into account.

This varies a lot locally. That 19% average ranges from an 11% fall in Surrey police force to a 25% fall in Northumbria. This is mainly because some forces, like Northumbria, rely more heavily on government grants and don’t raise as much locally.

With that difficult financial background in mind, we turn our attention how one particular force, Northumbria, chose to deal with the situation by seeking to grab money from the pensions paid to disabled former officers who were forced to retire due to injury received in the execution of their duty.

In June 2015 the force Executive Board was presented with a report written by Jocelin Lawson, Director of Human Resources. Its title was ‘Introduction of Injury Award  Reviews, Regulation 37(1) Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006

Here it is –

Joscelin Lawson report

 

For new readers, we need to explain that a ‘review’ is a term which has come into general use to identify processes taken by a Police Pension Authority (‘PPA’) to ensure the correct level of injury pension continues to be paid.

The report states there is a ‘legal obligation’ for ‘The Force’ to consider at suitable intervals whether there has been an alteration of the pensioner’s degree of disablement, by means of a medical assessment.

However, this statement is unfortunately misleading, despite its apparently factual delivery. It is mistaken.

The above Regulations actually allow not ‘The Force’ but a Police Pension Authority – which is an office vested in the sole personage of the Chief Constable – to use unfettered discretion over whether or when to take action under regulation 37 (1). There is no blanket ‘statutory obligation’ as claimed.

By failing to differentiate between ‘The Force’ and the Police Pension Authority, Ms. Lawson provides a revealing insight. The Chief Constable of Northumbria has allowed his concerns over his budget to influence detrimentally his duties as the Police Pension Authority.

Let’s do what the report fails to do, and show you the actual wording of regulation 37(1):

Reassessment of injury pension

37.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, where an injury pension is payable under these Regulations, the police [pension] authority shall, at such intervals as may be suitable, consider whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered; and if after such consideration the police authority find that the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has substantially altered, the pension shall be revised accordingly.

Note well – there is no mention of a ‘medical reassessment’ nor of setting up a programme to review each and every injury on duty pension. A PPA is to do no more initially than ‘consider whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered.’

The regulation does not assist the PPA by defining what form the consideration might take. That is no oversight, as it is apparent the regulation intends that the PPA will use its discretion whilst promoting the scope and purposes of the Regulations as a whole. That does not extend to conducting medical reassessments of all recipients of an injury pension, in the hope of finding substantial alteration.

The very wording of regulation 37(1) indicates unmistakably that any consideration must be an individual undertaking. It is a singular thing, a reaction to a change in circumstances affecting an identified pensioner’s degree of disablement.

What Northumbria forgets, or perhaps chooses to ignore, is that the Regulations (specifically, regulation 30 which is rather too lengthy to reproduce here but which can be viewed via this link only permit the PPA to appoint a duly qualified medical practitioner to determine the extent of any alteration when the PPA is considering revising an individual’s injury pension.

An injury pension cannot be revised unless there has been a substantial alteration. Therefore, Northumbria is utterly out of order in thinking it can task a doctor with conducting ‘medical reassessments’ before it has gone through the required individual consideration of the likelihood of alteration in degree of disablement.

IODPA advises any injury on duty pensioner of Northumbria, or of any other force, to bear this in mind should they be asked to attend a medical interview and/or examination. We can offer sound practical advice on what to do, and what not to do. Advice which comes from the most expert and authoritative legal sources.

Now let’s look at a glaringly obvious logical flaw in the report. Northumbria ceased reviewing in the early part of 2010.  The report places the blame on the Home Office for advising all forces to cease planned reviews, ‘until case law provided clarity on the law.’

So,  from 2010  to date, Northumbria was content to set aside what it now claims is a ‘legal duty’.

Even the most warped legal mind would know that Home Office advice is not law. It does not have to be obeyed. Northumbria could have continued to conduct reviews, and could have done so without falling foul of ‘case law’ if only it followed the Regulations. Moreover, Home Office advice ought not to be such that it tells a PPA to ignore a ‘legal obligation’.

Ms. Lawson’s report to the Executive Board effectively says that Northumbria, having blindly followed what turned out to be unlawful Home Office advice in 2008, and having once more blindly followed Home Office guidance by ceasing reviews in 2010 is now intent on intruding into the lives of its disabled former officers and their families by conducting a mass review of injury pensions.

It seems that Northumbria thinks it can have its cake and eat it. It thinks it can not review, or it can review as it wishes. It is mistaken.

There is a vast and dangerously dark difference between making a decision to review or not to review based on the wrong reasons, and making that decision properly based on only relevant and lawful reasons.

From 2010 to date, there may well have been pensioners who were entitled to have their degree of disablement reviewed, and to have their pension payment revised upwards due to a worsening of their condition. Northumbria was content to ignore them.

We can see from the report why Northumbria ceased reviews. We can see the misleading claim that it now needs to dust off what it thinks is a ‘legal obligation’ and recommence reviews. However, the report reveals the real reason why all injury on duty pensioners, whether elderly, vulnerable, in delicate balance of mental health, whether informed of their legal rights or kept in deep incognizance will now be put through a most distressing and intrusive process.

The reason is money…

 

On reading Ms. Lawson’s report, it very obviously concentrates on the financial aspects of the planned mass review programme.

It also very obviously absent of any serious consideration of the human impact of reviews. The silence speaks loudly of the single-minded purpose of the review programme and dismisses any adverse human impact in a single sentence. Ms. Lawson models her thinking along the lines of the First World War generals who saw soldiers as mere units to be sacrificed for the gain of a few yards of ground.

The report attempts to illustrate various financial outcomes. Needless to say, they all confidently predict savings for the force. In that it is also mistaken.

IODPA believes that Chief Constables, and those who advise them, should take more care to understand the differing, and sometimes conflicting, requirements and duties of the office of Chief Constable and that of Police Pension Authority. The latter is supposed to focus on ensuring injured disabled officers receive the appropriate level of compensation as provided for by the Regulations. That focus should be divorced from any consideration of the financial outcome to the force.

Chief Constables quite properly need to manage their budgets prudently, but they should see injury pension payments as a debt of honour, as ring-fenced, kept entirely separate from their attempts to save money. Instead of turning on people who are generally among the least able to defend themselves, they should be lobbying the Government for direct assistance in meeting their obligations under the police injury benefit regulations.

Where, we ask, are the rehabilitation programmes designed to help injured disabled officers adapt to life outside the force? Where do we see HR providing support and care to the families of injured disabled officers? Where is there any assistance in helping injured disabled pensioners finding work?

It seems to be the case that in Northumbria the Chief Constable – Winton Keenen (pictured) has forgotten entirely about his duty of care towards former officers. We suggest that if he wishes to save money by reducing what is clearly seen by him as the burden of injury pension payments, he would do better to achieve that aim by helping disabled former officers rather than by hounding them.

Staffordshire – The Story To Date

Staffordshire – The Story To Date

All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.

Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943)

 

Elsewhere on our web site are numerous comments concerning the action taken by Staffordshire Police in reducing the pension payments due to a group of disabled former officers. The comments make clear the feelings engendered in reaction to this dramatic turn of events.

IODPA has refrained from making comment as the issue is undoubtedly going to be subject to prompt legal challenge.

However, we can give an account of what has happened so far.

Officers who are injured on duty to such an extent they can no longer perform the ordinary duties of a constable can be required to retire. They can be awarded a one-off gratuity payment plus a pension, payable for life, as compensation for no-fault injury.

The compensation scheme is governed by The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006, which is secondary legislation made by a Minister of State under provision of The Police Pensions Act 1976.

The Regulations, specifically regulation 37, allow the question of degree of disablement to be considered from time to time, as appropriate, for it is recognised that the disabling effects of duty injuries may worsen or lessen. If there has been a substantial alteration, then the amount of pension paid can be revised accordingly.

On 26th April 2017 Staffordshire Police commenced a programme intended to review the degrees of disablement of the over 300 former officers who are in receipt of an injury pension.

The programme quickly ran into difficulties as pensioners raised issues questioning the legality of the programme, both in concept and in detail.

A major issue was the insistence of Staffordshire Police that it be allowed full unrestricted access to individual’s medical records, from birth, and to personal financial information.

A number of pensioners refused to give permission, on the grounds that their personal data enjoyed detailed protection under data protection law and that there is nothing in the 2006 Regulations to require a former officer to submit any medical records made by any other doctor to the force or to any doctor employed by the force.

A further concern expressed by some pensioners was that they had no confidence Staffordshire Police was capable of conducting the review process lawfully. The content of various policy and process documents created by Staffordshire Police concerning the review programme arguably contained misinformation and misrepresentation of law.

A number of reviews were held, and the doctor tasked by Staffordshire Police to decide whether there had been any alteration in degree of disablement reported that, in some instances, due to the absence of permission to access medical records, he could not make a decision. The doctor later withdrew himself from any further involvement in the review process.

In December 2017 Staffordshire Police published a letter which sought to apportion all blame on the difficulties being experienced to, ‘a small number of individuals’.

It emerged that in the majority of instances where pensioners had refused unrestricted access to their medical records no decision was made on alteration of degree of disablement, despite it being a requirement of the relevant regulation (regulation 30) that the appointed doctor is referred the question ‘for decision’.

Each of the individuals concerned had attended an appointment arranged by the force with the force’s doctor. They answered all questions which were put to them, and allowed themselves to be medically examined where this was requested. Some provided medical evidence showing there had been no alteration in their degree of disablement. in some cases, the pensioners were recalled within months to attend a second medical examination. Again, they fully complied.

On 26th November 2018, we reported that seventeen pensioners had had their pensions reduced.

This is the letter that was sent out to those who had refused permission for unrestricted access to their medical records. We reproduce a redacted copy of one of those letters here.

Morgan letter redacted

 

The letters announce that Staffordshire Police has turned to regulation 33, which it relies on as giving authority to reduce the injury pensions of those who had refused permission for unrestricted access to their medical and access to financial records.

It is worth reproducing regulation 33 here:

Refusal to be medically examined

  1. If a question is referred to a medical authority under regulation 30, 31 or 32 and the person concerned wilfully or negligently fails to submit himself to such medical examination or to attend such interviews as the medical authority may consider necessary in order to enable him to make his decision, then—

(a) if the question arises otherwise than on an appeal to a board of medical referees, the police authority may make their determination on such evidence and medical advice as they in their discretion think necessary;

(b) if the question arises on an appeal to a board of medical referees, the appeal shall be deemed to be withdrawn.

 

The letter indicates that Staffordshire Police has taken the view that it was not enough for the individuals concerned to have submitted themselves to such medical examination as had been arranged for them with the force’s doctor, and to have allowed themselves to be interviewed by the doctor.  Staffordshire Police appears to believe regulation 30 covers access to personal medical and financial information. Staffordshire Police thus claims there has been either a wilful or negligent refusal.

Consequently, a decision has been made by the force to reduce the pensions of the individuals concerned.

Moreover, the reductions are to be back-dated to the time when they saw the force’s doctor.

The letter is essentially identical to each individual. Each letter fails to give any reason or insight into how the decision to reduce the pensions was taken, or on what evidence.

IODPA understands that solicitors have been instructed in challenging this extraordinary action by Staffordshire Police.

We will provide updates as the situation evolves.

Gareth Morgan Invokes Regulation 33 On Seventeen Disabled Pensioners

Gareth Morgan Invokes Regulation 33 On Seventeen Disabled Pensioners

 

Gareth Morgan (pictured) has sent out letters to seventeen Staffordshire police pensioners informing them he is dropping their injury pensions based on his interpretation of Regulation 33 of The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006. He is also intending to back date his decision.

We cannot comment on this any further for legal reasons, but here is what Staffordshire Police have posted on their website –

 

Mark Botham Appears In NARPO News

Mark Botham Appears In NARPO News

The “November 2018 | Issue 96” edition of the monthly NARPO magazine contained this full page article by Mark Botham.

Mark is the Managing Director of Botham Solutions which provides training, a health and safety consultancy and advises on matters such as police pensions. He is an ex Yorkshire Police Federation rep of nineteen years and spent ten as chairman of the county branch. He holds a BA Hons, Post Graduate Diploma in Law, Post Graduate Certificate in Law, Post Diploma in Law and Master of Law and currently works for Haven Solicitors.

It is great to see some sound legal advice being published for all officers that have been injured on duty.

Here is his article –

 

img20181105_18341676

 

This article has been reproduced by kind permission of Mark Botham and the National Association of Retired Police Officers.

Mark can be contacted via Haven Solicitors – havensolicitors.co.uk

NARPO can be contacted via their website – www.narpo.org

The Staffordshire Saga

The Staffordshire Saga

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

― Mark Twain

 

Staffordshire Police is one of less than a small handful of forces which remain determined to abuse the ‘review’ provision contained within The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006.

Chief Constable Morgan, fresh from his experiences with attempting to run a mass review programme of injury pensions in Avon and Somerset, has committed Staffordshire to a similar enterprise.

Mr Morgan’s story in Avon and Somerset, which he has repeated in Staffordshire, is that there is a duty to review the degree of disablement of all former officers who are in receipt of an injury on duty pension. In an open letter dated 21st December 2017 CC Morgan writes,

On 26 April 2017 Staffordshire (sic) Police began a pension review of retired Injured on Duty (IOD) officers in accordance with Reg. 37 (1) of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 which places a duty upon the Police Pension Authority (the Chief Constable) to review whether the degree of the pensioners’ disablement has altered.

 

There is a duty, which is subject to a discretionary process before being acted upon, which allows a Police Pension Authority (‘PPA’) to,

. . .  consider whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered . . .

 

A PPA must, for each individual, first determine whether it is appropriate to consider whether their degree of disablement has altered. It must first identify a suitable interval has passed since the time of the last final decision was made on degree of disablement. In some instances, there may never be a suitable interval.

Let’s  put this as simply as possible. Unless a PPA can show, with a record of its reasoning process, that there has passed a suitable interval then a PPA is not entitled to make any consideration on degree of disablement.

This aspect of the Regulations was settled way back in 2003, in the case of Crocker. The court opined,

I regard the review provision as the key.  There is no need to speculate.  As and when circumstances dictate, the pension is reviewed.  The doctors, the Medical Referee, and Selected Medical Practitioner can, and here did, indicate when they thought that that should happen.  Such a power is wholly inconsistent with a need to forecast the future and then to test the calculation of the forecast against the actual out turn on a number of occasions.  The means by review of correcting the pension when circumstances change obviates the need not just to speculate, but to speculate and review as well.

 

That determination is not hard to understand, but in plainer English, the court decided that doctors, medical referees (now PMAB’s) and SMPs should not speculate about when any alteration in an individual’s degree of disablement might occur. A PPA should not use those speculations as reason to conduct a ‘review’.

Moreover, the court decided that any ‘review’ should be a reaction to a perceived change in circumstances of an individual.

Staffordshire Police, and others, should note well the deliberate use of the singular pronoun in regulation 37, which identifies – ‘the pensioner’. Not, ‘all pensioner’s degrees of disablement’ or even, ‘pensioner’s degrees of disablement‘.

When the Regulations speak of the singular person they intend a singular consideration, not a mass consideration.

The PPA should therefore conduct a full review only after having considered that the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered.

We have to comment too, that a ‘consideration’ is a very different concept to a ‘review’. In fact, the word ‘review’ does not appear anywhere in the Regulations.

What Staffordshire Police mistakenly reads into the Regulations is a carte blanche duty to intrude into the lives of disabled former officers. They think that they can demand a range of sensitive medical and financial information to which they have no legal right. They think that they can task their HR or Occupational Health departments to collude with the doctor hired by the force to conduct medical assessments and examination with a view to influencing what should be an independent medical decision by the SMP.

Staffordshire Police set about their plans to conduct a mass review programme in the manner of a surgeon removing a leg to treat an ingrowing toenail.

The truth is, all Staffordshire Police are entitled to do is to make a polite enquiry of only those pensioners where there my be a strong indication of alteration. Their duty is discharged entirely once they get the answer that there has been no alteration.

We can for the moment leave aside well-founded suspicions that wherever a force has decided to hold mass reviews the decision to do so has been based entirely on an expectation of saving money.

Such expectations have proved to be illusory.

The facts are that over a ten year period, up to 2015, across the country, when most forces were conducting reviews, the vast majority resulted in a decision there had been no alteration in degree of disablement.

Even if Staffordshire Police’s intentions were entirely based on an altruistic desire to comply with the basic concept that a police pension authority needs to ensure the correct level of pension continues to be paid, should circumstances alter, then conducting a mass review is not the way to go about it.

So, what has happened so far? What progress has been made since Mr Morgan’s announcement in April 2017?

A recent Freedom of Information request has revealed some interesting facts.

A company called IMASS/Medigold was contracted to provide a doctor or doctors to conduct the medical aspects of the reviews. This company’s doctor commenced his work with Staffordshire in February 2018.

A doctor assessed 26 injury on duty pensioners. He made a decision there had been no alteration in degree of disablement in 6 cases. In the remaining 20 cases he decided he could not make any decision. No former officers were decided to have experienced any alteration in degree of disablement.

There is no option in the Regulations for a SMP to discharge his task by not deciding. Once a PPA has commenced a consideration it must ensure a decision is made. Staffordshire PPA is in breach of its duty in respect of those 20 pensioners who have no finality.

Surely, common sense should prevail in these circumstances. A PPA has only one realistic option, which is to record the SMP’s ‘no decision’ as a decision there has been no alteration. It is inhuman to leave pensioners up in the air with the uncertainty a failure to decide engenders.

Other evidence of what has resulted from reviews is contained in a Progress Report dated 22nd March 2018.

Police_Pensions_Board_Half_Yearly_Report_140318

 

It states a total of 45 injury on duty pensioners had been reviewed, or were in the process of being reviewed. Of them, 13 were decided to have no alteration in degree of disablement. In 4 cases, the pension was reduced due to a decision there had been a substantial improvement in degree of disablement. Of the remaining 28 pensioners there was no news.

Each review will have cost at least £500 to £600 and if there are appeals and court cases resulting from unlawful application of the regulations the experience of Avon and Somerset will be repeated in Staffordshire. When Mr Morgan was DCC in Avon and Somerset he saw a bill which ran into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

IODPA finds it hard to understand why Staffordshire police pension authority is happy to waste so much public money in conducting ‘reviews’ as currently constructed, when it is open to it to devise a process which will allow it to comply with regulation 37 at minimal cost, and without visiting anxiety and real harm on vulnerable disabled former officers.

Staffordshire Police tell a good story, but just like those of Mark Twain, it is complete fiction. And not even slightly amusing.

Recording Reviews

Recording Reviews

There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.

Harold Pinter – Old Times 

In an earlier blog, we highlighted some of the barriers which stand in the way of justice for disabled former officers in receipt of an injury pension, and serving officers seeking to retire due to injury on duty or disabling ill health.

We commented on how individuals are effectively prevented from securing their pension rights.

The system seems loaded against them due to the scarcity of information, support and professional representation. IODPA reaches out to those who would otherwise not secure their pension rights and in so doing we learn about and witness first hand the deficiencies of some of the doctors who are asked to provide medical assessments on behalf of police pension authorities.

One aspect of these assessments which our members have highlighted is the matter of the reports which these ‘selected medical practitioners’ (SMPs) produce. All too often they seem to bear little resemblance to what was said and done during the assessment.

The upsetting experience of one of our members might illustrate what we mean.

An injury on duty pensioner was being assessed by a SMP for the purpose of determining whether there had been any alteration in his degree of disablement.

The SMP referred the pensioner to a consultant neuropsychiatrist, who saw him some little time later. The pensioner had his wife present throughout the assessment. He was asked some questions about alcohol consumption,  and the pensioner stated that he, together with his wife, drank three bottles of wine a week.

When the consultant’s report was issued, the pensioner, and his wife, were shocked to see that the consultant had written that he drank three bottles of wine a day and believed he should be categorised as presenting with ‘Harmful use of Alcohol’. The consultant went on to comment that he should reduce his alcohol consumption and be prescribed thiamine – a drug given to alcoholics to help reduce vitamin deficiency.

It was bad enough that the consultant, who was not entitled to make any recommendations, or even comments on treatment, did just that, but worse was yet to come, for the error was not corrected.

When the pensioner pointed out the error to the consultant and asked for her report to be amended,  the consultant refused to do so. Thus this error, which essentially labels a sober man an alcoholic, has remained on file.

The point of this illustration is that, if the assessment had been recorded, then the error would have been revealed in evidential form and would have been corrected, either by agreement, or by compulsion through legal proceedings.

You might think it only common sense that medical assessments and interviews held in connection with police pension rights should be routinely recorded. That the doctors concerned be supplied with proper recording equipment, which produced a simultaneous copy for the medic and for the individual.

However, that is not the case, and is likely to remain the situation. Not least because some SMPs have voiced opposition to any form of recording of their sessions. Some have gone so far as attempting to stop individuals from making their own recording of the assessment or interview. We will comment on that situation below.

In our earlier blog we produced figures on the number of appeals made to Police Medical Appeal Boards concerning pension matters. For an appeal to be arranged, a police pension authority must accept that there is reason to believe an error of fact or law was made – by a SMP or by a police pension authority.

We believe that the number of appeals heard cast only a glimmer of light into the darkest of corners. It is entirely probable there are many more errors which have not been revealed and have not been challenged.

Of course, it is not only SMPs and consultants who can have faulty recollection. A study [1] revealed that patients only retain between 40% and 80% of what their doctor has told them during a consultation. It is not hard to understand that former officers with mental injury, placed under the huge stress of a medical examination and interview, the results of which will determine the amount of their pension, might find it even harder to recollect much of what went on.

It is partly for that reason IODPA recommends members always have someone with them during any process concerning their pensions.

We are aware of instances though, where certain SMPs have objected to anyone other than the individual being privy to what is said and done. Happily, the General Medical Council (GMC) has advised that doctors should not raise any objections to a friend being present.

Looking at the wider picture, it would be better all round if there were fewer appeals. There would be less stress and financial uncertainty for the individuals and less cost for forces. To achieve a reduction in appeals, however, there would need to be a decrease in errors, and we think that is unlikely to come to pass, given the fact that, by all the accounts we receive, SMPs and police pension authorities are, shall we say, rather prone to committing errors.

Errors should be corrected without the need for appeal to a PMAB. The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulation 2006 make that very clear, for regulation 32, parts (2) and (3) makes provision for SMP’s to be asked to reconsider any decision.

A reconsideration is an opportunity for the SMP to be made aware of any errors of fact or law, and to correct them. But, before an individual can bring such matters to the attention of a police pension authority and request a reconsideration the errors need to be identified.

IODPA therefore advocates that anyone who attends a medical interview or examination by a SMP, or any other doctor to whom they have been referred to by a SMP, should not only insist they are accompanied throughout by a friend, but should also make a recording of the entire event, and should do so openly.

We advise that the doctor be told the session is being recorded.

If any doctor objects, then the objection should be acknowledged and the doctor told they have no legal power to prevent the recording.

Doctors should have no cause to object, for a recording is as much a protection for them as is it is to the individual.

Recording is lawful because you are only processing your own personal information and are therefore exempt from data protection principles.

The recording remains the property of the individual, who may well find it could be admitted as evidence should they decide to appeal any decision made by the SMP, or if matters go to an industrial tribunal or judicial review. The GMC will also likely accept the recording as evidence in any complaint proceedings against a doctor.

A little bird has told us that a certain SMP thinks that they have the authority to ban individuals from making recordings of medical interviews and examinations.

That SMP is wrong.

Expert police pension solicitor Mark Lake advises on the argument that a recording, covert or otherwise, may not be admissible in legal proceedings:

I do not think such an argument can possibly succeed for 2 reasons. First, the SMP is acting as a public law decision maker in this interview and not as a treating doctor.

Second, any confidentiality in the consultation belongs to the patient and not the doctor.

Although a SMP may be considered to act in a quasi-judicial way, that is solely because any decisions made are binding unless appealed. By decisions we mean only those a SMP is tasked to make under the Regulations. A SMP is not a judge and does not have the powers of a court.

Essentially a medical interview or examination for pension purposes under the Regulations is just that – a doctor’s consultation with a person who they must respect as having the status of patient. The doctor must abide by the ethics of their profession and also with the law, with particular regard to the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 and the General Data Protection Regulations.

Is the view of IODPA on the recording of these sessions a lone one? It seems not, for we can turn to the combined wisdom of the General Medical Council and to the Medical Defence Union, the Medical Protection Society and the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland for their opinions.

All of these organisations recommend that doctors raise no objections to a patient recoding any interaction with them.

The GMC has confirmed there exists a doctor/patient relationship when a doctor is conducting a medical examination or interview for an employer or pension scheme manager. SMPs are obliged to follow GMC guidelines and advice, as failure to do so opens the door to civil claims and to complaints to the GMC.

In its guidance on good medical practice, the GMC states:

You must give patients the information they want or need to know in a way they can understand. You should make sure that arrangements are made, wherever possible, to meet patients’ language and communication needs.

Clearly, this is an endorsement of patients making recordings, which allow them to obtain the information they need in a form which enables considered analysis of the information.

The Medical Defence Union offered its opinion in its publication ‘Good Practice’ [2] The article says:

By recording a consultation to listen to again later, patients are less likely to miss something important.

And;

It would be a mistake to think they are trying to catch you out or that a complaint or claim will inevitably follow. If you are concerned that the patient’s actions are a sign they do not trust you, you may want to discuss this with them at a later date, but recording a consultation is not itself sufficient reason to end your professional relationship with them.

The Medical Protection Society gave its opinion in its publication ‘Practice Matters’ [3] The article says:

A recording would potentially provide even more detail to support the doctor’s professional position. There should be no reason therefore why you should have anything to fear from such a recording.

And;

A patient does not require your permission to record a consultation. The content of the recording is

confidential to the patient, not the doctor so the patient can do what they wish with it. This could include disclosing it to third parties, or even posting the recording on the internet.

In a press release dated 2nd July 2015 [4], the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland stated:

In an ideal world, patients would not feel the need to covertly record a consultation and would be open about it, says Dr Peddie, however, doctors should not necessarily feel threatened when they become aware of a recording. Indeed, a recording may be helpful in avoiding misunderstandings.

So there we have it. Recording of medical interviews and examinations for any purpose concerning pensions or ill health retirement is lawful, and is encouraged by doctor’s professional organisations.

SMPs should take careful note of this and accept that an accurate record is essential to ensure errors of law or fact can be revealed and dealt with without the need to take matters to a PMAB.

As for PMABs, then IODPA urges the Home Office to make provision for official recording of everything said and done during an appeal hearing and to advise PMABs not to obstruct appellants or their legal representatives who wish to make recordings.

 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC539473/ – Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2003

[2] https://www.themdu.com/guidance-and-advice/journals/good-practice-june-2014/patients-recording-consultations – Good Practice June 2014

[3] https://www.medicalprotection.org/docs/default-source/pdfs/uk-practice-matters/practice-matters-oct-2014.pdf – Practice Matters, Volume 2, Issue 3, page 6, 2014

[4] https://www.mddus.com/about-us/media-centre/2015/july/doctors-should-not-fear-covert-recording –

Abuse of Power

Abuse of Power

An abuse of any given power is a display of ignorance to the moral values of the position.

Ian T Sebàs

 

Essex police pension authority has recently announced the intention, in respect of former officers in receipt of an injury on duty pension,‘ . . . to review the percentage of earnings capability in relation to the injury award regulations.’

That is how it is announced in the minutes of the meeting of the Essex Police Pension Board held on 28th November 2017.

For the benefit of anyone who has only lately come across IODPA and these blogs, we had better explain what the Chief Constable of Essex Police has determined to attempt.

The Chief Constable holds, in addition to his office of constable, the office of police pension authority (PPA).  Amongst other responsibilities a PPA is required to ensure the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 are properly applied and administered. These are the regulations, the law, which govern police injury on duty pensions. An important provision in these regulations is the PPA should ensure the correct level of pension continues to be paid, should there be a substantial alteration in any individual’s degree of disablement.

This provision is in regulation 37 of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006. It is the so-called ‘review’ provision. Essex PPA would like to use this regulation now, having not used it much, if at all, since 2010. However, we have grave concerns that Essex PPA is approaching things not only in an unlawful manner, but also in a way which will undoubtedly bring much distress and upset to some very severely disabled former officers.

What the statistics say

Essex has some 250 or so former officers retired due to injury on duty. They each receive a pension, the amount of which is partly determined by their degree of disablement. An individual’s disablement may alter over time – it may worsen, or it may improve.

However, data obtained by the IODPA shows that the vast majority of pensioners do not experience any substantial alteration over the years of their retirement. The task of a PPA is therefore to make a sensible, humane arrangement which will allow it to discharge its obligation to ensure the correct level of pension continues to be paid, should there be a substantial alteration in any individual’s degree of disablement.

On the basis of the minutes mentioned above, there is some confusion and lack of clarity about what degree of disablement is, or what is required of the PPA should degree of disablement alter.

The minutes display an unfortunate indifference to the precise meaning of the regulations. There is no such thing as ‘percentage of earnings capability’. No mention in the regulations, nor in case law. We have to assume the PPA means to refer to a review of the degree of disablement of former officers in receipt of an injury pension, but if the PPA can’t even name it, preferring to use some meaningless replacement phrase, then it does not bode well for the way any ‘reviews’ will be conducted.

We said above, that a PPA is required to see that the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 are properly applied and administered. Well, sadly, the wheel has fallen off that particular bike before the reviews have even really begun. In a response to a Freedom of Information Act request, which asked Essex Police the question,  ‘What is the selection criteria for identifying pensioners required for review?’ they replied, that is was,

Based on longevity cost to Pension Authority to determine first tranche.’

We have to pause again here to seek meaning. We think Essex is saying that pensioners will be selected to have their degree of disablement reviewed by picking out those who are younger than the median age of the total group of injury on duty pensioners, and thus liable to be paid their pensions for longer or those pensioners who receive the higher amount of injury pension, or some equation including both criteria.

That was pretty much what Avon and Somerset did, when that force set out on its costly and fruitless review programme a couple or more years ago. Essex is thus following an example which has been proved to be unlawful and doomed to failure.

Selecting individuals for a review of their degree of disablement on the basis of their age, or their level of pension payment is not lawful. It is discriminatory.

What is vitally important to note here is that Essex PPA makes it transparently obvious, beyond all possibility of reasonable doubt, that it is motivated to conduct reviews only by consideration of the ongoing cost of funding injury pensions.

That is why IODPA has to comment that the PPA is acting contrary to the intent and purposes of the regulations. The PPA seems to have lost sight of what the purpose of a review is, as intended by the regulations.

A review is intended to be a rare event, only undertaken when there is good reason to believe that an individual pensioner has experienced a substantial alteration in degree of disablement. Reviews should not be applied to a selected group of injury on duty pensioners as a means of discovering whether there has been an alteration in degree of disablement. A review is not intended to be a mechanism for a PPA to try to save money.

The Regulations

A PPA is required by regulations 37 of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations to do no more than, ‘. . .  at such intervals as may be suitable, consider whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered.’

In making that consideration a PPA is not empowered, or entitled to require any individual to supply personal financial or medical information. Nor can anyone ‘process’ any of the information held by the force, or any other agency or person for the purpose of making the consideration, without the express informed consent of the individual concerned. The Data Protection Act makes it very clear that information held can only be processed for the purpose for which it was first obtained and any further processing for a different purpose is not lawful without express informed consent from the individual concerned.

Instead of making a simple enquiry of pensioners, from time to time, we have a force which has applied an intrusive and potentially deeply distressing instrument in an attempt to use regulation 37. Moreover, it seems the prime intention of the PPA is not to ensure the correct level of pension continues to be paid, but to save money.

Police injury pensions stand to be paid from the police force budget. Chief Constables have a duty to be prudent with the public purse. Chief Constables are under pressure to reduce costs, to trim their budgets, but that does not empower them to raid the injury on duty pensions paid to disabled former officers.

It would be proper for a Chief Constable seeking savings, to do what was practicable to lessen the chances of officers becoming injured and disabled, or to make provision for the best care and treatment being available to any officers injured on duty, so they could avoid being retired on an injury pension. It is most certainly not proper, nor lawful, for a Chief Constable, acting as PPA, to seek to review the most costly injury pensions with what can only be an intention to see some of them reduced.

Conformation this is a driving objective behind the proposed reviews is found in a further response from Essex Police to a Freedom of Information Act request. When asked, ‘Can you confirm if all pensioners in each band will be reviewed?

Essex replied,

Since no reviews have been conducted since 2011 the suitable period for review as determined by the smp at previous review has elapsed. It is therefore envisaged reviews will be conducted for all pensioners in band 4, 3 and 2.’

Once more, we need to decode. Essex seem to be making a causal link between lapsed recommendations made by medical practitioners employed by the force some time ago as to when a review might be appropriate in individual cases, and the fact of Essex now commencing reviews. In plain language, they say, ‘We failed to make any considerations as to whether the degree of disablement of any of our injury on duty pensioners had altered, so now we have to play catch-up.’

As with the flawed and unlawful motive for holding the reviews – to save money – here Essex reveal a concerning abuse of the intent of the regulations, allied with a truly shocking exhibition of disability discrimination. Essex say they won’t be reviewing pensioners who are on band one. These are the pensioners who are paid the least amount of pension, and whose pensions can not be reduced, but could only be increased.

IODPA has had an indication that Essex PPA is willing to rethink its approach, and we will be reporting on this in a future blog. We will be following events as they unfold and will be ready to assist any injury on duty pensioners whose pension rights are under threat. We think Essex ought to call a halt to its proposed reviews and sit down with people who can explain the regulations to its HR managers and other staff. It is not in the best interests of Essex police, or of the disabled former officers who receive an injury on duty pension, to allow unlawful application of regulation 37 to proceed as currently proposed.

Chief Constable Kavanagh of Essex Police responds to IODPA

Chief Constable Kavanagh of Essex Police responds to IODPA

Following the recent announcement of Essex Police to start reviewing injury pensions, and after reviewing documentation sent out by Kevin Kirby, we were sufficiently disturbed to formally write to the Chief Constable, Mr Kavavagh. Here is a copy of the letter that we sent.

 

Letter to Essex CC

 

Here is the reply that Mr Kavanagh provided.

 

CC Kavanagh Reply

 

We are grateful to Mr Cananagh for taking the time to reply, but still feel as though there are lot of unanswered questions.

The talk of Essex

The talk of Essex

The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth – that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured of one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.

H. L. Mencken (1880 – 1956)

 

Clever Cat, Stupid Cat

Police pension authorities, and the employees who act under their instruction, have consistently demonstrated a remarkable ability to make errors. Over the last few years we in the IODPA have seen some prime examples, and have sadly heard of the damage they’ve caused to disabled former officers and their families.

It is said that if a cat jumps up onto a hot stove, it will never do it again. Well, we can say with a good degree of certainty that some police injury pension scheme managers are nowhere near as clever as cats.

No sooner has one PPA or another had its errors corrected by a judicial review or by the Pensions Ombudsman, than another pops up and repeats the very same errors, or invents completely new ones.

 

A Most Unpleasant Letter

Essex have decided to conduct a programme of reviews of the degree of disablement of some of its disabled former officers who are in receipt of an injury pension. So, Mr Kirby, the Head of Governance & Compliance for Essex police pension authority, took on the task of writing to them. Which presents us with the opportunity to dissect his extremely unpleasant and inaccurate letter and point out the errors it contains. The letter can be read in all its full glory here.

 

Letter from Essex call to review

 

Scalpel Please, Nurse.

Let’s make the first incision by reminding ourselves, and Mr Kirby, that the letter is addressed exclusively to disabled people. Some of whom will have physical impairment, some will have mental impairment and some both. We see no signs this appallingly constructed glob of officialese was written by someone who gave any thought to its possible impact on the recipients.

It is not hard to imagine the sense of doom, the panic, the lonely desperation welling up in the minds of those who are made vulnerable by the symptoms of a mental or physical injury when this letter landed on their doormats. We know, because we get told these things, often, and know the mere sight of a letter on police headed notepaper can be enough to destabilise some pensioners. Yet Mr Kirby addresses them all as though they are not only fit and well, but also fully conversant with the intricacies of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006.

We understand the main target of the proposed reviews are pensioners in band four. That is the highest degree of disablement, identified in the Regulations as ‘Very serious disablement’. Surely someone gave some thought to the impact of the letter on this group of people?

Before we go further we should assure Mr Kirby that we mean no personal insult to him. He may be a pawn in a larger game, and only doing what he has been commanded to do. He may be understaffed, untrained and unsure. He could be under pressure to produce results. However, he put his name to the letter and must take responsibility for its contents.

 

Apologise and Withdraw

If Mr Kirby has any moral core he will immediately apologise for sending out his letter, and the questionnaire and Appendix which came with it. He will withdraw it all, and sit down with local NARPO, Federation and injury pensioners, to consider very carefully the implications to the force and to the injury pensioners should the PPA continue on the disastrous course his letter has set.

IODPA has no issues with lawfully held reviews but we have to speak out when a PPA announces its intention to act outside the confines of the Regulations. This blog is intended to be as much an encouragement to Essex to realise its wrongheadedness and to think again, as it is a crib sheet for injury on duty pensioners, giving them points to use to challenge and question their police pension authority.

Mr Kirby’s letter contains so many errors and muddled inaccurate information that it is going to take more than one blog to deal with it and the accompanying Appendix and Questionnaire.

Mr Kirby’s letter begins with the phrase,

As you are aware . . .” and mentions the Regulations and something he calls an intention to “. . . review your degree of disablement earnings related capacity.”

We very much doubt pensioners are aware. In our wide experience it would be a rare individual who would know the detail of the Regulations or what a review might involve. If they were to think the letter would explain, in simple easily understandable language, what the PPA is aiming to achieve, they would be disappointed.

 

Fools Rush In

The letter seems to have little or no grasp of the Regulations. Yet it is written with a confident style which is misplaced and in terms which display inadequacies.

There is no mention of a ‘review’ in the Regulations. That word does not appear. ‘Review’ has become generally accepted shorthand, for those who deal with injury pension issues on a daily basis, for the process which is mostly set out in regulation 37 of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006.  Police injury on duty pensioners can not be assumed to know what a ‘review’ is. Thus, the first error of the letter is a failure to properly explain what Essex PPA intends.

Nor is there any mention in the Regulations of reviewing something called a ‘degree of disablement earnings related capacity’. Now, this is something which IODPA would very much like to see Mr Kirby attempt to explain. We have no idea what he is referring to and neither will any pensioner, because it is an invented term which has no bearing on the Regulations.

Let’s get things straight. Regulation 37 confers a conditional power of discretion, not a duty, on police pension authorities to do this, in this order:

 

  1. For an individual pensioner, positively identify that a ‘suitable interval’ has passed since the time of the last final decision on degree of disablement.
  2. ‘Consider’ whether the individual pensioner’s degree of disablement has altered.
  3. If a police pension authority has good reason to believe it has altered, so that the pension payment may need revising, up or down, then refer for decision the question of degree of disablement to a ‘duly qualified medical practitioner’.
  4. If the selected medical practitioner decides there has been a substantial alteration, they can determine what the degree of alteration is, by setting the amount of alteration against the established degree of disablement and thus arrive at a new percentage degree of disablement.

Now, of course, there is much, much more to the process that this brief aide-memoire provides. There are many ways a police pension authority can come unstuck. However, to assist Essex and guide them away from the current disastrous approach we should just mention that it is vital that any ‘review’ is an individual process for an individual person. A PPA simply can not decide en bloc to ‘review’ a group of pensioners.

 

A Misplaced Sense Of Duty

We should also mention what Mr Kirby’s letter describes as,

‘. . . a duty as part of good governance to periodically review the degree of earnings capacity of pensioners in receipt of an injury award.’

We will return to ‘good governance’ in the next blog, but we need to deal with ‘duty’ first.  The duty placed on a police pension authority under regulation 37 is it, ‘. . . shall, at such intervals as may be suitable, consider whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered . . .’

Essex is not the first police pension authority to use a misreading of the Regulations to support a false claim that it has a ‘duty to review’. It is true there is a duty to ‘consider’ at ‘suitable intervals’ whether there is any alteration in degree of disablement, but forces divert from the intention and purpose of regulation 37 when they leap ahead of this simple, restricted, conditional duty.

Mr Kirby’s letter tells us,

‘. . . the process requires the involvement of the pension authority’s selected medical practitioner’ and ‘In order to assess the degree of disablement the selected medical practitioner will need to take account of your skills and qualifications and what kind of employment you could undertake . . .’

Now to be fair to Mr Kirby, it could be that he genuinely, but mistakenly, thinks that the PPA can only properly ‘consider’ matters as per regulation 37 if it gathers in all the information it asks for in the questionnaire and gets their SMP involved in analysing it.

Trouble is, Mr Kirby is asking, sorry, requiring, pensioners to hand over information the PPA has no right to demand. Nor can he involve the SMP until the PPA is in a position to be considering revising an injury pension. As things stood at the time Mr Kirby wrote his letter, the PPA could have no reason at all to think that any pensioner had experienced an alteration in their degree of disablement.

A PPA has no legal authority, or ‘power’ as Mr Kirby would describe it, to require any information from former officers.

IODPA advises any Essex pensioner who has received the above letter, questionnaire and Annex from Mr Kirby not to respond to hand over any information, or give the permissions asked for.

Essex Questionnaire – The answer is NOT to answer

Essex Questionnaire – The answer is NOT to answer

Here is the questionnaire as recently sent out by Essex Police following their decision to commence injury pension reviews. It is intrusive almost to the point of being offensive.

Whilst they have every right to send out such a document, the pensioner has every right to place it straight into the bin. There is no legal requirement to provide ANY information regarding these reviews.

Have a read and familiarise yourself with the document. We will be putting up a series of blogs regarding this and other paperwork that has been sent out by the force.

Essex Police questionnaire