Review

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 –

Chief Constable Morgan’s open letter

Chief Constable Morgan’s open letter

Today Chief Constable Gareth Morgan, the Staffordshire Chief Constable placed an open letter on his website regarding the forces recent Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 reviews under Section 37(1), and the recent resignation of his Selected Medical Practitioner (SMP) – Dr Vivian, who informed us last week that performing the role of a SMP in relation to these reviews had, “been a major burden”.

It was our intention to seek permission to reproduce the open letter here, but as Mr Morgan who is a prolific Twitter user, has previously blocked us, we were unable to ask. The article has been marked as an open letter, and so we will reproduce it here in it’s entirety, and also provide a link to the original so you may read it in all it’s glory.

Open letter

21.12.2017

Pension review of retired Injured on Duty (IoD) officers

On 26 April 2017 Staffordshire 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. Injury Benefit pensions (commonly known as Injury Awards) are granted to retired officers who have been medically assessed as being between Band 1 (slight disablement) to Band 4 (very severe disablement). By law a review cannot result in an injury pensioner being reduced to less than Band 1 so they are never removed in their entirety.

Since this time, and after confirming my intention to continue the reviews after my arrival as Chief Constable, there has been misinformation and misrepresentation of facts in what appears to be an attempt to besmirch the professional reputation of independent medical practitioners and Staffordshire Police. A small number of individuals have set out to campaign against these reviews in a manner which my staff have described as akin to harassment and intimidation – much of it on line and in the public domain.

I have always recognised that these reviews can cause concern and we have committed to expediting the process for that reason. I recognise that everyone is entitled to a view and are allowed to express it. However, the conduct of individuals is such that the independent Senior Medical Practitioner (SMP) no longer wishes to conduct injury assessments for retired officers at this time. The assertion circulating that the SMP left because he was being required to follow the instructions of the force and act unethically is entirely without foundation.

Every care is taken to ensure the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 and related case law are adhered to. I reviewed the process and sought legal and HR advice before confirming my intention to continue the reviews. I am entirely confident that the procedures comply with the regulations and are lawful, both in the way Staffordshire Police conducts itself and in the actions of the SMP.

So far, reviews have commenced for 34 people. To date, 13 have been completed and have reached outcomes, of which four IoD pensioners have had their banding reduced to Band 1. To date, three of these pensioners have stated their intention to appeal as is their right in accordance with the Regulations. Appeals are conducted by the Police Medical Appeal Board, which is independent of Staffordshire Police.

The pension benefit review has not been held in the interests of money saving and no savings are assumed in our forecast budget plans. In fact, the total cost to Staffordshire Police for IoD pensioners amounts to £3 million per annum.

The review is to ensure we are ethical and proportionate in the way that we use public money and to ensure there is a fair and consistent approach to all. The review will ensure that the pensioners continue to receive the appropriate level of award.

I acknowledge we have a duty of care to support IoD pensioners and we are fully committed to providing that support to the most professional of standards. This covers all 360 IoD pensioners we have in Staffordshire. I also have a duty of care to my staff which is why I am writing this letter to iterate that I will not tolerate the treatment they have recently received.

I would ask that everyone reads the information that clearly outlines the review process on our website pages. Appeals, complaints and concerns should be submitted through formal channels and not aired in such a way that discredits the working practices of my colleagues who are simply carrying out their lawful and legal duties.

Gareth Morgan

Chief Constable, Staffordshire Police

21 Dec 2017 17:00:08 GMT

https://www.staffordshire.police.uk/article/8802/Pension-review-of-retired-Injured-on-Duty-IoD-officers

He has stated that reviews are not being conducted to save money.

He has also stated that no-one can be reduced below a band one, despite Staffordshire Police clearly threatening to suspend awards if the IOD does not comply with their demands. (here is the before and after).

What saddens us is the need to blame extremely poorly pensioners for the reason for Dr Vivian to withdraw from the process.

We wonder how the Regulations and case law is being adhered to when we read there are at least three pensioners who are appealing.

Also, what was the end result of the other nine pensioners?

We notice that Mr Morgan has blocked any comments being placed after the article on the Staffordshire Police website, which sort of makes his rant one way. Never mind, we’ll be happy to accept your comments! As always, please make them constructive.

Finally we have to ask, is a “Senior Medical Practitioner”, a SMP who is somehow superior in position or authority to an ordinary “Selected Medical Practitioner”? Answers on a postcard.

The Scandal in Staffordshire

The Scandal in Staffordshire

Alea iacta est”  (“The die is cast”) — Julius Caesar on January 10, 49 B.C as he crossed the Rubicon river

November 9th 2017 was a black day.  It was the day Staffordshire police, Andrew Colley and Charles Vivian crossed the Rubicon.

The answer will be found in the courts and injustice will be vanquished, as it always is, but still Staffordshire police wants test their ruinous interpretation of the law whilst ignoring the collateral harm it is deliberately causing to those injured in their police service.

Why are we here and why wasn’t this stopped when the wickedness was embryonic?  What follows is a timely reminder.

Lionel Shriver’s 2003 novel “We Need to Talk About Kevin” describes how when behaviour worsens, those with the power to do something go on the defensive, convinced there is always a reasonable explanation for why what they could have stopped was done to others.

On the 7 June 2017 at court room in North Shields, employment Judge Buchanan heard how David Curry, a former police officer retired on a pension awarded for disabling brain injury suffered in the line of duty had been pursued since 1998 by his former force. Mr Curry had his injury pension reviewed in 1989, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2010 and continually from 2016 to 2017. The fact that he was sectioned and admitted into a psychiatric ward wasn’t enough to persuade his former force there had been no change in his capacity to earn.

David’s experience is sadly not an isolated instance. The charity Injury on Duty Pensioners Association (IODPA)1 has gathered a large and growing body of personal accounts by the victims of maladministration. So much is wrong with so many aspects of police injury pension management that the situation is little short of a national scandal, which requires the attention of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Disabled former officers such as Mr Curry can never be free from the police.  The new £7.5m Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW)  welfare fund is helping those serving but neglects those already injured and retired.  Ill-health retirement is sadly an acrimonious and bureaucratic process and this doesn’t cease once permanence has been proved and the warrant card handed back. Every time the postman drops a letter through a letterbox carries the risk of adversity; a letter from the force causing the injured to relive the trauma of how they left the police.

Through a fluke of mailroom efficiency, often these letters drop on a Saturday when week-day mental health support has closed. No other occupation has such a toe-hold on those leave through medical retirement.  They are being treated as though they are cheats or liars. Some, including those with severe mental injury, have been subjected to hours-long aggressive ‘medical inquisitions’ by doctors appointed by their former force throughout their life outside of the police.

When a force wants to review the principles of the Data Protection Act are often forgotten. As are the Access to Medical Reports Act, and General Medical Council and Faculty of Occupational Medicine guidelines. Pensioners are facing unlawful demands for access to their medical records and see reports written by said doctors, which contain gross errors in fact and law, delivered to HR departments without their permission. Pensioners have been threatened with stoppage of their injury pensions if they fail to complete questionnaires demanding sensitive financial and medical information having no relevance whatever to the management of their pensions.

Age can never be a factor.  Slavishly following a “policy” is unlawful.  It is never justifiable to threaten compliance or consent. A SMP can’t have a predetermined decision based on averages of prognosis for the general population.  Causation can not be touched upon  It is not about earnings.

All these things happened in Staffordshire on the 9th November 2017.

Those injured and disabled have to contend with pension scheme administrators who have little to no understanding of the Regulations which govern police injury pensions and whose automatic reaction to any enquiry or query concerning mismanagement is to circle the wagons and to deny, delay, obfuscate and obstruct. Complaints are brushed aside, and are labelled as vexatious, or an abuse of the complaints system.

Of major concern is a widespread misapprehension by senior officers and Police and Crime Commissioners that the Regulations permit regular mass reviews of the degree of disablement of injury pensioners. Mass reviews have been held, in some forces areas, causing very great worry and inconvenience to disabled former officers and their families. Mass reviews are unlawful, as decisions made on degree of disablement are intended to be final and only subject to review where the PPA consider that there has been an alteration in the pensioner’s degree of disablement.

There are 43 regional police forces in England and Wales. The picture is mixed, with the majority of forces not conducting reviews, whilst others have actively set about wholesale abuse of the discretionary power to conduct reviews. IODPA has been told by pensioners in these areas that they fear they are caught up in a grotesque game, where a handful of people on a mission are using them to test the boundaries of what they think they can get away with – all with the misplaced and illusory objective of saving money.

IODPA has no objection to lawful reviews, which it insists should be rare events, triggered when the PPA consider that there has been an alteration in the medical condition of any individual. Research conducted on behalf of IODPA produced data on reviews held covering the five year period 2010 – 2015 revealing that 83% of all reviews held resulted in a decision there had been no alteration in degree of disablement, and thus no revision of the amount of injury pension paid. Some 10.29% of reviews resulted in a decrease in pension, whilst 6.82% were increased. Just six forces accounted for the majority of the reviews, conducting 781 out of the total of 806. Merseyside alone conducted a staggering 502 reviews, all of which are believed to have been unlawfully held.

It can be concluded from the research that some forces wasted a great deal of public money conducting unnecessary reviews, which cost around £2500 each, with other, more substantial costs resulting from appeals and legal challenges.

Avon & Somerset has paid one SMP, a Dr Phillip Johnson, £94,500 in twelve months from August 2016 to August 2017.  Add this to the £54,600 paid to Johnson from December 2015 to August 2016 and the £146,667 between June 2014 to November 2015, and the sum totals just under three hundred thousand pounds.  Given Johnson works as the force medical officer for Dorset police and Avon & Somerset already pays a salary of over £150k per annum to Dr David Bulpitt, the scales of money exchanging hands is staggering.

In one force3, pensioners were selected for review by what was essentially an automated lottery, with no evidence whatever to believe their degree of disablement had altered. In one force a civilian member of staff was given free access to the medical records of police injury pensioners. It seems this force allowed, even encouraged attempts to reduce injury pension payments. The civilian’s job description2 commenced thus:

Job Purpose. To manage the investigation and process of police and support staff retirement on the grounds of ill health. To ensure maximum savings to the force budget through the robust investigation of injury award applications, injury award reviews, medical appeals and reviewing permanently disabled officers who have been retained in service.

It seems this force has wrongly tied what should be the administration of injury pensions within the content, scope and purposes of the Regulations to the management of the force budget. Disabled pensioners are to be subjected to ‘investigation’ rather than be treated with respect and consideration.

The fact of the unlawful reviews is cause enough for concern, but there is a widespread and justified belief among pensioners that the reviews are motivated solely by a misplaced desire to save money from hard-pressed police budgets.

There is also uneasiness regarding the unhelpful attitudes of HR staff, the some doctors, and senior officers, some of whom are politely aggressive, or arrogantly dismissive of pensioners’ concerns.

It is unacceptable that that the rights of injured on duty pensioners should be trampled on by the failures of those responsible for the legitimate management of the scheme. Retired disabled officers deserve better. Attitudes need to change.

When a police officer is injured on duty, to such an extent they can no longer perform the ordinary duties of a constable they can be compulsorily medically retired. Injury can be physical or mental, or a combination of both. The retiring officer can be awarded a one-off gratuity and an injury pension, which is payable for life. The test for qualification for the award is whether the person concerned is disabled, whether the disablement is likely to be permanent and whether the disablement is the result of an injury received in the execution of duty.

The injury on duty pension scheme is governed by the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006. The explanatory memorandum3 to that legislation makes it clear that injury awards, ‘. . . are in effect compensation for work-related injuries.’

In making provision for injured officers to receive a pension, successive Governments have consistently acknowledged that entitlement to a police injury pension is a key element of the remuneration of police officers to enable them to undertake their role with confidence. Officers need to know that if they have to be retired due to disabling injury they will not suffer financial detriment. Currently, that certainty is slipping away, and if this trend continues, then morale of serving officers will suffer.

If there was no injury pension scheme, it is reasoned that Chief Officers would inevitably find themselves subjected to litigation, with allegations of negligence, and claims for compensation for injury. Given that there are currently over 12,000 former officers retired with an injury on duty, the potential cost of litigation should there have been no injury award scheme could well have run into thousands of millions.

No amount of pension can ease the difficulties retiring injured officers face. The consequential mental trauma of injury can be severe. There is the loss of an occupation which for many officers is seen as a vocation more than a means of earning a living. There is the loss of the comradeship, and loss of the sense of belonging, of being engaged in a worthwhile enterprise with noble aims and purpose. With the shock of injury and retirement comes the need to construct a new life. Some disabled former officers manage the transition with minimal difficulty. They find a new job or a new career. They adapt to the restrictions the disablement brings.

However, for many, especially those with very severe disablement, IODPA is well aware that transition to life outside the police can be a lengthy and distressing experience. Despite positive changes in attitudes by employers, encouraged by anti-discrimination legislation, disabled former officers, especially those with a mental injury, may well find themselves to be unemployable.

The Regulations governing police injury pensions are not concerned with these problems. They address only the one issue, that of providing a minimum income guarantee in retirement, and on that issue they are adequate for purpose. An injury pension scheme is only effective where it is properly managed. The Regulations are not hard to understand. Yet they are being woefully misunderstood by some who have responsibility for managing the police injury pension scheme.

In November 2013 the College of Policing arranged a review of forces’ management of ill health Retirements, injury on duty awards and police medical appeal boards4. Amongst other conclusions, the resulting report found that:

Many forces are struggling due to the lack of expertise within their organisations.’

The structure of some force HR facilities do not support the management of the process. When managed by shared service pools rather than through specific dedicated individuals, personnel are unable to build up experience in dealing with these case.’

The above issues are compounded by a lack of dedicated subject matter experts across the service and training opportunities.’

We have to look back to 2006 to see the origins of this sad state of affairs. Due to a change in tax legislation, and to preserve the tax-free status of injury awards they were separated from the general police pension schemes. The injury pension scheme became a non-contributory scheme, and award payments now stand to be met from the budget of each force.

This immediately brought about a focus on the cost of meeting existing injury pension payments. Some chief officers sought to reduce what was seen as a burden on scarce resources by manipulating the review provision.

Then the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 abolished police authorities, which had hitherto held the legal obligation to administer the police injury award scheme. In practice, authorities had delegated the administration to Chief Constables, but they continued to provide an important oversight. The 2011 Act created the office of police pension authority and vested it in the sole personages of each Chief Constable.

There seems to be a built-in conflict of interest in having Chief Constables, who must dutifully manage their budgets, having to attempt to set aside all considerations of cost when acting as the police pension authority. The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 do not say that a pension can be reviewed because a Chief Constable is concerned about the cost of paying it. Some Chief Constables have failed to make the necessary separation of their duties, to their great shame and to the detriment of disabled, and often vulnerable, former officers.

In Lionel Shriver’s novel, it was too late to save Kevin and those he massacred. The opportunity to make things right had passed. It is not too late for disabled former officers like David. IODPA suggests that Police and Crime Commissioners urgently should look closely at the human and financial cost of these issues and help ensure that police injury pensions are managed within the law.

1 https://iodpa.org/

2 See: http://iodpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/000.JDQ-Medical-Retirement-Officer.pdf

3 See: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/injury_on_duty_reviews_the_next#outgoing-510456

4 See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2006/932/pdfs/uksiem_20060932_en.pdf

5 See: College of Policing Review of Force Management of Ill Health Retirements, Injury on Duty Awards and Police Medical Appeal Boards

We’ve Come a Long Way…

We’ve Come a Long Way…

“Bottom line is, even if you see ’em coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.”
Joss Whedon

On the last Friday in the month of May three years ago, in the undoubtedly swanky splendour of his official residence in the Portishead headquarters of Avon & Somerset Police, Julian Kern the newly titled Director of Resources must have given a good impression of a coiled snake preparing to leap.  Eager to dig his fangs into the seemingly juicy and succulent meat of a defenceless prey, Julian had seized on Police and Crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens’s decision to reduce what she saw as the unproductive cost of honouring the force’s obligation to pay injury awards to disabled former police officers.

Kern was a finance director before he was given the dual responsibility of HR. Thus Mountstevens’s plan made perfect sense to his pounds and pence mind. Pay pensioners less, and use the money elsewhere.  To Kern it must have seemed to be a no-brainer. In the event it was, but not in the way he anticipated. Kern as a snake bared his fangs and leaped, only to strike not soft yielding flesh but concrete, ‘honey badger-like’ resolve.

Sixteen former officers were selected to have their injury pensions reviewed. The selection was made on the basis they were all in receipt of the highest level of injury pension and were all relatively young. In the warped minds of Kern and Mountstevens, the sixteen represented a long term drain on the force budget. They were a carefully chosen sample whose injury awards stood to be paid for the greatest number of years unless they could be reduced. As they were on the highest band there was no danger of their pensions being increased by a review – they could, however, with a fair wind and a compliant SMP be reduced.

Let us just remind ourselves what Mountstevens wrote to the then Policing Minister in August 2013. She wrote:

I have recently been looking into the area of “injured on duty” (IOD)  police officer pension enhancements and found that a significant part of my budget is consumed every year on these payments which generate no benefit to the people of Avon & Somerset.’

Let’s  also just remind ourselves what Mountstevens put on record at a HR Portfolio Update meeting, minuted at page 6.

Injury on Duty – The OCC have over 300 ex-officers receiving IOD enhancements costing c£6m in total per annum. This is very high compared to other forces.  There is a duty to review these and OCC are now conducting a “test” review of 16 cases – stating with the youngest/highest bands.’

So, the sixteen were selected not for any reason to believe their disablement had improved. They were to be guinea pigs to test the plan to reduce the cost of paying injury pensions.

Moreover, disabled former officers were seen as nothing more than a worthless burden.

Mountstevens even made the odious and crassly inappropriate comparison of those former officers who had been injured on duty through no fault of their own with a fleet of high mileage cars.

The annual cost of these lOD’s to the force is in excess of £5.5m (2% of our annual budget). This is more than it costs us to run our fleet . . .

It was against this money-grabbing background that Kern considered it highly likely that he, and his Z-team of HR minions and doctors (cough) Bulpitt and Johnson, could whizz through reviews of the injury pensions of all 500 disabled former officers in nine months.

Supernintendo Markay & Peter Owens of Merseyside, Stephen Mitchell of Nottinghamshire and Lesley Ann Knowles of Northumbria all squawked a tuneless wail from the same accountant’s hymn-sheet.

Reality dawned soon enough. What seemed like a walk in the park, resulting in some handy savings, turned into a slog in thigh deep mud.  Pensioners pointed out to the PCC and to HR and Kern that the reviews were being conducted unlawfully. The promise of a swift conclusion of a mass review program dissipated rapidly as the realisation dawned that pensioners were well organised and would fight for their rights. Of the sixteen original reviews, a significant portion of those sixteen still haven’t received closure from the unlawful review process. Four of the sixteen are still awaiting conclusion – three years later; a further two are still undergoing appeals to PMAB. As to the remaining 486 IOD pensioners – they have had to live with the uncertainty generated by the prospect of a review for three years now.

To date, Mountstevens and Kern have cost ‘the people of Avon & Somerset‘ ™ ~ Sue Mountstevens hundreds of thousands of pounds (yes, you read that correctly, that’s six figure numbers we’re talking) in their fruitless attempt to abuse the police pension regulations. Most of the money pocketed by the SMP, Dr Philip Johnson.

Throughout the self-generated pandemonium of a team of incompetents doing something they don’t understand how to do it, when asked, Kern has always disingenuously stated that everything is to plan and he is doing it all correctly and lawfully.  How much longer can Kern continue to claim the sun goes around the earth, or that the Emperor is wearing fine clothing? The clock is still ticking.

So back to the last weekday, a Friday, in the month of May – three years ago exactly – when, with characteristic oppressive malevolence, letters announcing the intention to review were sent out, timed to hit the letterbox of the recipients on a Saturday.  Saturday 31st May 2014 to be exact.

The weekend receipt of such nasty letters is a practice still favoured by such forces as Merseyside, Staffordshire and Northumbria.

You see, it gives the disabled person shocked and worried by the very obvious threat to their pension a full 48 hours in which to suffer anxiety and have any mental health symptoms exacerbated before they can seek help – help which is only available on the following Monday at the earliest.

This can not go unnoticed as it is beyond the realms of chance that a Saturday is when this sort of letter always hits the mat.  This abuse has a descriptive term: “white torture” – it is a form of sensory deprivation through isolation favoured by North Korea and those who administer police injury pensions.

Speaking of Merseyside, with the coordination of a bloat of hippopotamus performing synchronised swimming, that force joined the fray by reviewing 502 IOD pensioners in a space of only 9 months. They achieved this purely by getting their resident medical retirement ‘officer‘, Peter Owens, to demand, with threats, that IOD pensioners tell him their earnings. On that irrelevant scrap of information Owens decided who might have experienced a substantial alteration in their degree of disablement, and who had probably not. He conveniently ignored the little legal requirement of having only a duly qualified medical practitioner decide the medical question of substantial alteration. He also chose to ignore the small legal point that an individual’s uninjured earning capacity could be higher than their former police salary.

Nottinghamshire mirrored Merseyside but, with flash of misplaced egotism, felt the need to get Stephen Mitchel (HR manager/NWEF deputy chair) and Dr Ralph Sampson to gloat to the national attendance management forum in a powerpoint presentation that’s it is all about the money and used twisted examples of dubiously reduced injury awards but conveniently left out that a proportion of those reduced won their award back on appeal.

Without thought, Staffordshire has also jumped into the murky waters and started a mass review program. We in IODPA say to Staffordshire police pension authority, ‘Good luck with that, mate. See you in court.’

An independent observer might well think this sort of action by these forces was co-ordinated; possibly even sanctioned by the heady mix of nasties who attend NWEF conferences.

There is a lot going on behind the scenes that we can’t talk about publicly due to the ongoing legal cases, but in each of the forces listed here there are appeals ongoing.  Judicial reviews take time to get before a judge and pension ombudsman decisions take an age to get to an adjudicator – the lag is both frustrating and annoying but it’s clear that we have a better idea of the weather signs of the inevitable incoming storm than the forces themselves – where typically the left hand can’t see the jerking, dying twitches of the right hand.  Exampled in the Notts presentation, forces spin their dubious outcomes favourably and rarely confer the bad news to each other as not to lose face.

Perhaps if Northumbria or Avon & Somerset used the college of policing’s internal group chat system called POLKA to honestly tell of the real firestorm they find themselves in, instead of swapping notes between SMPs in how to subvert the Regulations, forces like Staffordshire wouldn’t blunder ponderously into the same pit of despair. www.college.police.uk/What-we-do/Research/polka/Pages/POLKA.aspx

POLKA (the Police OnLine Knowledge Area) is a secure online collaboration tool for the policing community to network, ask questions, share insights, discuss ideas and suggest new ways of working.

We are aware of HR drones and SMPs (the supposedly independent medical authority) forming POLKA groups as the means to build contacts and then immediately jumping into using WhatsApp to continue their heinous discussions.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has criticised the impressive security of WhatsApp by saying the police and intelligence agencies need to be given access to WhatsApp and other encrypted messaging services to thwart future terror attacks.  Oh, the irony that those under her employ are using the same platform to swap their own devious recipies!

Why would honest public employees use an encrypted social media tool in an attempt to escape the open and honest disclosure of public decision making processes as demanded by the Freedom of Information Act?  Rhetorical question of course, honest employees would not.

It is not just the fact of attempting mass reviews which is indisputably unlawful. The devil is also in the detail – in the way individual disabled former officers are treated by those in HR; we know of one retired officer who had their injury award removed on the fabricated charge of failing to attend a medical examination.  We should not have to remind pension authorities of the fact that an injury pension cannot be ceased in this way.

But this particular incident was quite a feat in the interpreted perversion of ‘failure to attend‘ when the SMP, a psychologist, the retired officer, spouse and Federation rep all sat in the same room for the best part of a day.

When the offending force was reminded of this fact by way of a letter from a solicitor offering to have the issue tested by way of judicial review, the force reinstated the pension a week later.

It was established that this medical examination of the former officer by the force’s tame SMP was nothing more than a sham.  The former officer did attend – with their partner and a Federation representative as mentioned above – the SMP just unilaterally decided the questions he asked had not been answered sufficiently.

The truth of it is that the SMP had made up his mind and refused to listen and so sent a missive to the shameless force that he thought the pensioner should be punished for his definition of non-compliance.  Totally unlawful but sadly a true story.  The ineptitude of police forces know know no bounds when it comes to “doing the legs” of those it medically retired.

So three years on, where are we? We have seen the formation of IODPA – and what a journey it’s been. IODPA was created in the chaos of 2014 when three forces who attended the National Attendance Management Forum thought they could ride roughshod over those injured and retired from the police.

From fortnightly informal meetings we have evolved to a national association which holds two conferences per year, attended by our members, lawyers and like-minded individuals. We are able to instigate training sessions, taught by legally qualified experts, attended by Federation and NARPO representatives.

Every second of every hour our presence serves to counter the misinformation spouted by the likes of Nicholas Wirz, the principle Solicitor of Northumbria and so-called legal advisor to the laughably recently re-branded National Welbeing and Engagement Forum.

Social media has helped us spread our message world-wide.  Our Facebook page, with short soundbites, has thousands of daily hits but tellingly people many continue to still take 5 to 10 minutes out of their hectic life to read our blogs.  This map shows the views by countries of this website.

We thank our constant readers and our supporters.

 

The likes of Wirz, Kern, Mounstevens, Owens, and all the corrupt SMPs who willingly follow their instructions are put on due notice that they will never succeed in continuing to abuse disabled former officers and their families. Nor will they ever succeed in their attempts to twist, evade or corrupt the Regulations. IODPA, and pensioners, have the resolve and the means to challenge and defeat them and we will do exactly that.

“Uncontrollable” Staffordshire Police

“Uncontrollable” Staffordshire Police

Oh Dear.  The force labelled by the Daily Mail* as “out of control” has decided to victimise those former police officers, now medically retired, who became injured on duty whilst serving for it. (*we know some people refuse to read the Daily “Fail” but occasionally it does serve a purpose for campaigning journalism  – Press Awards Newspaper of the Year for 2016).

Staffordshire is infamously renowned for continually using the discredited and neither “lawful nor unlawful”  ©NAMF  Police Earnings Assessment Matrix (aka PEAM) to make everyone, retired from it with an injury award, a band one. Don’t take our word for it, Staffordshire admit the Regulations don’t mention PEAM and that they use it in this freedom of information request:

PEAM is used along with police staff earnings and appropriateoccupational earnings information to calculate potential earnings. It is not necessary for PEAM to be in the regulations as forces can utilise differing methods for calculating earnings.

 

PEAM and Bad Maths

In an example of unprecedented lunacy, it seems  as though Staffordshire, with the current Chief Constable Jane Sawyer retiring, is looking at compulsory reviewing any former officer who ISN’T a band one!

The irony is unparalleled given the degree of disablement of the  majority of Staffordshire injury awards were calculated using a flawed methodology and therefore falls foul of the Fisher judgement that ruled that any “thin in the extreme” reasoning and lack of individual application means the decision should not stand.

PEAM by it’s nature removes individuality and covers all of those piped through it with a generic blanket of defaults – all variables predefined by a spreadsheet algorithm.

So it amazes us that these people can’t read?  If only the HR minions of Staffordshire viewed our blogs.  The legal bill of paying thousands upon thousands of pounds could be avoided.  Equality law exists to prevent this discriminatory use of a discretionary duty.

To give you a flavour of what unlawfulness to expect, look at the first line of their ‘policy’ here:

https://www.staffordshire.police.uk/ibr

The purpose of the reassessment of Injury Benefit (otherwise known as an Injury Pension or Injury Award) is to ensure that the recipient (the Injury Pensioner) receives the correct level of Injury Benefit.

Wrong from the get-go.

A review (under Regulation 37) is not a reassessment.  Only after evidence of substantial change can there be any revision to the degree of disablement and it is unlawful to calculate a new degree of disablement to find substantial change.  It absolutely has nothing to with regressing to the ‘correct level’ of benefit … whatever that is!

We covered the ridiculous “goldilocks” syndrome some HR directors grasp hold of over a year ago- read the dismissal of it here.

Someone in Staffordshire thinks they know everything there is to know about the Police Injury Benefit Regulations.

https://www.staffordshire.police.uk/article/6977/Legal-Background

Oh dear, Oh dear.

Whilst every other force steps backwards, Staffordshire jumps into the breach.  They even think Regulation 33 can be used to force people to complete their invented questionnaire.

https://www.staffordshire.police.uk/article/6981/FAQs—Injury-Benefit-Reassessment#answer6985

Interestingly Gareth Morgan, the Deputy Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset, will be appointed Chief Constable of Staffordshire next month.

Let us remind you of the February 2017 press release this future Chief gave concerning the historical abuses conducted by a police doctor, and subsequently covered up by senior personnel.

“Anyone requiring a police medical examination held on police premises by a police doctor should have had an expectation of being safe. It is clear that the conduct of some of these medical examinations fell well below this standard.Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Morgan

Plausible deniability can not be argued by Mr Morgan.  He was in a senior post whilst Avon & Somerset thought mass reviews were a good idea.  He was also the senior investigative officer on the 2015 College of Policing’s scathing report on the horrors of ill-heath retirement.

It looks like we will reporting extensively on Staffordshire and we will do whatever we can to show them the true path.

Blowin’ in the Wind

Blowin’ in the Wind

“I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible….except by getting off his back.” ― Leo Tolstoy, What Then Must We Do?


…and how many times must they say they must review
Before there’s no savings to be gained?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

This song speaks about humanity, war and peace and other ambiguous questions which people refuse to answer. Bob Dylan claims that the answers are already there.  In his own words:

Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that. I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down some …But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know . . . and then it flies away. I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it’s wrong. I’m only 21 years old and I know that there’s been too many . . . You people over 21, you’re older and smarter.

We at IODPA have been piecing together some of the pieces of the electronic paper trail left blowing in the wind by police forces, and they tell a story of their true agenda concerning reviews of injury pensions.

Some forces are two-faced.

With their public face, HR managers bang on about how they have a duty to hold reviews. They point to the Regulations in support of this claim. With their hidden, private, yet so revealing face they chatter away about the cost of injury pensions and how reviews might save them money. The hidden face reveals attitudes towards disabled people which are close to being hateful.

So many times have disabled former officers been told about the supposed positive, statutory, power to review an injury award, whenever the fancy takes them, and we have seen how certain police pension authorities relish the task. They, just like Tolstoy’s piggy-backer, claim in the same breath that they are a reluctant agent; that their hands are tied and they have no choice in the matter.

Blow the health and sanity of those caught up in the review roller-coaster.

On every opportunity we’ve argued against this hogwash.  Repeating our assertion that the Regulations intend that a review should be a blue moon event solely dependent on the circumstances of the individual.

And then yet another piece of paper flutters down in front of us.  This time from Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

The latest IOD policy from Cambridgeshire is that as there are no savings to made then the ‘proactive’ review policy of the force will be suspended.

“That in the absence of current national guidance on Injury Award Reviews and the diminishing likelihood of accruing further savings, the current proactive review process be suspended. “

How very interesting.

It seems then, from this that the attitude of those in authority is the review provision within the Regulations is there to allow them to save money. This is about as far away from the true purpose and intent of the Regulations as it is possible to bend one’s thinking. According to Cambs, they review to try to save money, then stop reviewing when it becomes clear that there will be no savings.

Thus the ‘proactive’ review policy was always down to a desire to make financial savings and with the intention to reduce the band of those reviewed.

2.5       The process of carrying out first reviews has generated some savings through the reduction in bandings of allowance for some recipients.  However, experience shows that any further reductions in bandings is less likely as a result of second and further reviews.

Their ‘positive power’ to review evaporates as easily as turning off the tap.  When there are no savings they think there is no point.

Our message is, and has always been, that the true purpose of the review provision within the Regulations is nothing to do with ‘making savings’.  Any attempt to review on this basis is blatantly unlawful.

Cambridgeshire police pension authority has clearly fallen far short of the statutory legal requirements set out in the Regulations.

Cambridgeshire cannot say they inadvertently carried out a lawful duty defectively.  Once those defects become apparent or the authority was made aware of the legal issues, if, those defects go uncorrected and the action continues, it is our understanding from that point onwards those people working for the authority, and/or the authority itself, then commit the criminal offence of misconduct in public office.

Read their latest policy and decide for yourself.
http://iodpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/FOI-0871-2016-Injury-Awards-August-2016-FEB.pdf

(To go to page two move your cursor to the bottom left and click the arrow.)

foi-0871-2016-injury-awards-august-2016-feb

 

“Preposterous” Awards

“Preposterous” Awards

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”― Herman Melville

Were Melville commenting today, he might well have had disabled former officers in mind as the ‘poor’ and the Force Medical Adviser of Avon and Somerset Constabulary as their well-warmed and well-fed critic.  In Moby Dick, Melville frequently uses biblical and mythological allusions.  Like the Biblical Ahab, in Melville’s Ahab (and our well-fed critic) there is a desire for something that he isn’t entitled to and that isn’t good for him to have, to try to get it by foul means, and then to get his comeuppance in the form of an ironic reversal of his own evil deed.

Although not all injured-on-duty pensioners are in the dire straits of penury, they are all poor in respect of the way their injury pensions are administered. The habit of the pensioners is to be in constant bemusement over how those who have a duty to administer injury pensions within the law so easily, and so enthusiastically seek to pervert the meaning and intentions of the Regulations.

As we have repeatedly said on these pages, IODPA is not against reviews of degree of disablement. Chief Constables have a wide discretion on whether or not to conduct a regulation 37 review of degree of disablement. They can consider the matter at such intervals as may be appropriate. However, it is not appropriate to initiate a review as a potential cost saving measure.

Reviews can not be used to undo the finality of the last final decision even if a certain force medical officer considers the award to be “preposterous” (see below). We can only wonder just how he managed to come to that opinion. On what evidence did he base his consideration?

No matter what a FMA might think about any individual’s injury pension payment he surely must be aware that only a substantial alteration to the degree of disablement can permit a revision of the level of pension paid. Is the verdict of “preposterous” informed by a generalised assumption of some deficiency in the process of granting an injury award? The FMA must know that the causation and the substance of the award always remains final and can not be revisited at review.

We are writing here about not just any old FMA, but one Dr David Bulpitt MRCGP FFOM, who is the Force Medical Adviser of Avon and Somerset Constabulary. It is a telling reflection of the rather nasty and lawfully inaccurate attitudes prevalent in some quarters, that Dr Bulpitt appears to have an inflated ego of such magnitude that he wants to rewrite history and convert the decisions of his predecessors, into becoming his decisions.

Dr Bulpitt is not shy about voicing his rather skewed opinions on injury awards.  He is not even a run-of-the-mill force medical adviser.  He has a national platform – as the police representative for the Association of Local Authority Medical Advisers (ALAMA).  Listed as a speaker in past ALAMA conferences for Occupational Health physicians who are “set on delivering the highest quality services and the best standards in patient care in the most effective manner”, you’d have thought his words would always exemplify the motto of ALAMA: “communication, education, consistency and quality of clinical practice of doctors providing Occupational Health Services” .  Unfortunately for Dr Bulpitt, his words may well come back to haunt him.

As Will Rogers put it, “After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut.”

In an intemperate email rant to the Police Workforce & Capability Unit at the Home Office, Dr Bulpitt displays his frustration and impuissance.

It seems he might well be vexed over his inheritance of the historical legacy of decisions that he thinks ‘he’ would not have made, conveniently ignoring that such attempts at historical revisionism is forbidden by the Regulations.  An interesting stance, given Dr Bulpitt is not privy to the Zeitgeist and full facts which swayed the decisions of his predecessors.

His ego asks for more.  The finality demanded by the Regulations is an affront to his wishful view of how things should be if he were in charge, and he can’t control his craving to fuel his desire to remove the injury awards of those retired from the force he represents, sacrificing his medical professionalism and independence in the process.

Frustrated by his impotence to alter history, he contacted the Home Office to tell them how hard-done-by he his.

 

[…] I suspect that you might be aware that we have a group of pensioners that are organising a campaign to resist having their pension reviewed.

So blinded by his own peculiar view of the Regulations, Dr Bulpitt actually thinks that a group of disabled former officers, who in their working lives were intent on seeing that the law was upheld, are now campaigning against reviews, per se.  Dr Bulpitt not only has hold of the wrong end of the stick, he has the wrong stick altogether. We guess he is referring to IODPA. In which case, how has he missed the plainly, and oft-repeated, statement of our mission, which is to challenge all aspects of unlawful reviews and maladministration?

IODPA has never sought to frustrate legitimate, lawful review process, but, in Avon and Somerset, and elsewhere, finding a legitimate review is about as difficult as finding an honest, decent and professionally competent FMA or SMP  (difficult but not impossible – they do exist but the good ones tend to avoid the debacles and imbroglios that always shadow bulk review programs).

Dr Bulpitt’s email continues in a manner that, perhaps unintentionally for him, actually answers his question of why pensioners do not want their injury award reviewed by Dr Bulpitt or anyone connected to Dr Bulpitt.

 

The issue is largely one of the Constabularies making in my view because they are on preposterous awards, frequently 100% and have hardly ever been reviewed if at all. One appears  to never had anything wrong with them and another had a certificate stating they did not have a permanent condition but got an injury award anyway.

Who are the ‘they’ that Dr Bulpitt refers to? The group ‘resisting having their pensions reviewed’ are all medically retired former police officers unfortunate enough to be retired from Avon & Somerset and other forces across the country where the review process is clearly being managed contrary to the Regulations.

Among everything else wrong in his email, Dr Bulpitt has the nerve to call the deliberate unlawful actioning of recommendatory Home Office guidance that reduction to 0% of the degree of disablement all former police officers once reaching sixty-five years of age as, ‘acting in good faith’.  

Oh!  That’s OK then – it’s fine to carry out a public duty unlawfully as long as it is done in good faith.  It’s perfectly fine to make an almighty cock-up, so long as it was done in good faith. It is acceptable to drive a coach and horses through the Regulations, bringing huge distress to disabled former officers and their families, so long as it is done in good faith.

This may be arguable in a pursuit of proving misfeasance in public office, an intentional tort rooted in bad faith, but the tone of Bulpitt’s email shows his intent is as far a polar opposite to a ‘good faith’ mistake as is possible.  Dr Bulpitt’s unsolicited use of the term ‘good faith’ clearly shows he has the spectre of misfeasance in his mind; just saying it is all in good faith doesn’t make it so.

As sure as eggs are eggs, Dr Bulpitt wants to globally revise the award downwards of all those retired by Avon & Somerset.  If this isn’t bad-faith then what is?

Do you think Dr Bulpitt paused for a minute and thought, as he typed his email, that it’s no wonder that people don’t want to be unlawfully reduced just because he, as the current force medical officer with only the scantiest knowledge of the circumstances, thinks there is nothing wrong with them and they shouldn’t have the award in the first place?

Or perhaps he feels he has sufficient knowledge. If so, he has been trawling through sensitive personal medical data which he has no right to access. The implication from his remarks amounts to a self-admission that Dr Bulpitt freely rummages around in the personal sensitive medical records of former police officers without consent. If that is the case, it is shocking to say the least.  How else can he justify his generalisation that those retired in the past, ‘have nothing wrong with them’?

The bunker mentality seeps through the words of Dr Bulpitt.

 

Apart from a coordinated campaign of FOI  requests, subject access requests and so on, they have been put in complaints to the GMC about  our SMP. Not too dissimilar from the picture in many forces that I have worked with but this one  is far more venomous and a lot of work has gone into worrying pensioners and frankly trying to smear the OH unit and the SMP by the Pipin group

Hold on there, Doctor. It sounds like you are saying that all complaints, all requests for information, and every attempt by injury on duty pensioners to shine some light into the murky recesses of the shambles that is the administration of their injury pensions, is done to annoy and smear? What utter hogwash! What a frankly outrageous attitude to display by someone who is supposedly trained and skilled in the art of diagnosis. What an example of bias overcoming logic.

Doc, your diagnosis is wrong. YOU, and the other people who have not got a clue about how to properly administer police injury pensions, are the disease. IODPA is the cure. We challenge because we have been attacked. We seek information because none is freely given out. We point out deficiencies because nobody has the wit or the will to remedy them unless backed into a corner.

 It is people such as Dr Bulpitt and Dr Johnson, the SMP used by A&S, who are smearing the Occupational health unit. They are dragging the unit into disrepute by abusing the Regulations.  Uncovering the truth of what is really going on cannot be twisted into smear campaign.  Smear tactics differ from normal discourse or debate in that they do not bear upon the issues or arguments in question.  On this website you will only find disclosure and arguments that always bear upon the focus of unlawful administration of injury awards.

The unguarded admission by Dr Bulpitt is another example in a long line of examples of how far some public officials will go in attempting  to undermine legislation.

Frustrated that Avon & Somerset legal services advise that it is unlawful to reduce an injury pension banding where an IOD pensioner disagrees with the SMP’s report and withdraws consent for it to be disclosed to the police pension authority, Dr Bulpitt states that he is at a ‘crunch point’.

Prevented by the GMC to force the release of a report that a SMP makes on an individual and unable to revise an award without it, his considered reaction is to ask the Home Office to change the law for him to provide immunity for SMPs from oversight by the GMC.

 

I know that others have written about this but surely it is crazy to have the GMC overseeing the work to the SMP and insisting that the pensioner is our patient and that we must put their  interests first?

Their insistence that we have to offer to share our report with the pensioner/applicant first is very difficult and potentially will prevent the review  of pensions if, as my legal department tells me, we cannot alter the pension without that report  and the pension authority cannot insist on it being released. They (the GMC) are adamant that  we must put the pensioner first and if that means not adjusting a pension to the correct level  then so be it.  My concern is also that this is getting so unpleasant for doctors we are getting very limited in our  selection of SMPs. FMAs are now very rarely employed and tend to turnover very quickly.

We cannot alter the pension without that report”.  Rather a conspicuously revealing and graphic sentence.  He uses the accusation of a conspiracy to save money in a dismissive throwaway comment concerning a pensioner who was unlawfully reduced in – cough! – ‘good faith’ three years ago.

 

[redacted] is being investigated over a decision [redacted] took 3 years ago when [redacted] had been instructed to review a pensioner who had reached the age of 65 and drop their award (we now know that is incorrect of course but [redacted] acted in good faith at the time). [redacted] contacted the GMC but has been frustrated by the apparent lack of any understanding of the role. The pensioner had his pension restored at appeal but has now gone on a crusade, accusing [redacted ] of “colluding with the pension authority to save money”.

But “we” (not the independent and supposedly impartial SMP) want to alter the “preposterous” award, he says!

You can make your own mind-up whether Dr Bulpitt is seemingly in cahoots with others.  The use of “we” in the above context goes nowhere in quashing any suspicion that the SMP is not totally his own man and the goal is to alter the pension in all circumstances.  You don’t need to be a clairvoyant to predict the direction of the desired alteration.

The Faculty of Occupation Medicine, of which Dr Bulpitt holds the FFOM post-nominal, has a ‘Competency 4‘ that governs the relationship between the occupational health doctor and the patient.

The absence of the usual therapeutic relationship between patient and doctor does not exempt the doctor from his/her professional duties imposed on all members of the profession..

Dr Bulpitt appears adamant that this should not apply to some members of the public and it seems he thinks that the required doctor-patient relationship is absurd.

 

surely it is crazy to have the GMC overseeing the work to the SMP and insisting that the pensioner is our patient and that we must put their interests first

The role is described as quasi-judicial but I see  little that is “quasi” about it. Surely it is not a doctor-patient relationship as we would understand

They (the GMC) are adamant that we must put the pensioner first and if that means not adjusting a pension to the correct level then so be it.

But it is not just the demands of the GMC, is it?  To be a FMA or a SMP the National Attendance Management Forum demands a prerequisite of membership of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine.  It is Dr Bulpitt’s own specialty designated body that demands the same compliance.

Given the Regulations are paramount and the Home Office refuses to release any central guidance in relation to injury awards, Dr Bulpitt continues forlornly, with a sigh of desperation and acknowledgement that some forces refuse to review contrary to the Regulations.

 

Can anything be done about this because we are in danger of the whole thing grinding to a halt?
So far as I know the Met are still not carrying out any reviews and have stated publicly that they  will not be doing so.

The Home Office sensibly skirts over the rant and calmly explains to Dr Bulpitt that the Regulations require a medical authority and the GMC therefore have primacy over the behaviour of any medical professional.

 

Hi David,
Thank you for your email. Whilst I understand your concerns and appreciate your comments it remains that as SMPs do fall within the remit of the GMC. You said that the GMC have been contacted to explain this issue but that the GMC do not seem to be understanding the role. Have any further attempts been made with the GMC to explain the role in further detail?
The Regulations state that the SMPs are being asked for a medical opinion and the fact that they sit under the remit of the GMC is something that cannot just be overridden through amendments to our legislation. It would be interesting to know more about the discussions which have been had with the GMC regarding this issue.
Kind Regards

Dr Bulpitt, and others with similar mindset, appear to have a clear appreciation or understanding of the laws that regulate their conduct in this area, but still they do their utmost to get around them.  When challenged, as we have so often witnessed in instances of other outrageous maladministration by public officials, they consistently fail to acknowledge that they have done anything wrong.

 

We are lucky here because our GMC liaison officer is very understanding and I took the  precaution of warning him that he would start seeing complaints. Thus far the GMC has not felt  any of the complaints against our SMP warranted investigation.  This has not necessarily been the case elsewhere

It is worrisome that Dr Bulpitt has apparently arranged an ‘understanding’ with the local GMC liaison officer.  Does this mean any complaint of wrongdoing is dismissed by the GMC responsible officer, regardless of the strengths and merits of the complaint?

Dr David Bulpitt’s position as Force Medical Officer has, we believe, become untenable with these shockingly offensive comments. He has demonised the entire population of disabled former officers who have injury awards, and his comments show extremely poor judgment and a surprising lack of sensitivity.

It is important that a doctor in a position of trust who is dealing with injured police officers and medically retired former officers enjoys public confidence and this is at risk with his continuing in the important role of Force Medical Officer.

We are so appalled at this insight into the recesses of the mind of Dr Bulpitt, and are so concerned about the bias and discriminatory attitudes which are revealed that we call for Dr Bulpitt to either resign quietly, or if he will not, for him to be dismissed.

If Avon and Somerset wishes to see a return to normalcy in its relationship with injury on duty pensioners and the emergence of good governance of police injury pensions, then this stumbling block named Bulpitt must go.

This is the full email chain.  Keep in mind if this is what Bulpitt sees as a measured email to the Home Office, what is he saying and doing in the privacy of his own office?

http://iodpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/38800-Annex.pdf

38800 Annex
[hover the cursor over the page to read all 4 pages or to download pdf]

The Law of Laws …

The Law of Laws …

“I am the law and you’d better believe it!” – Judge Dredd: 2000 AD prog 40.

We haven’t discussed for a while the landmark decision in the appeal of Metropolitan Police Authority (Appellant) – and – Belinda Laws (Respondent)- and – Police Medical Appeals (Additional Party).

A timely revisit of the basic principles has been provided to us by the Lake Jackson legal team involved in both the first judicial review and the appeal.

It’s important to remember that this opinion relates to the duty of the SMP, when the decision to revise the injury award has been passed to the medical authority – in other words the police pension authority has already considered, that there has been an alteration (“shall” so are referring the question of degree of disablement to the SMP: Regulation 30(2)(d)).

Police Authority v Laws is the leading authority on the correct application of injury award reviews under Regulation 37 of the 2006 Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006. The leading judgement was given by Lord Justice Laws.

In the course of his judgement Laws LJ approved the decision of Burton J in MPA –v- Turner. 

The correct interpretation of Laws is that the Regulation 37 duty of the SMP (or logically the PMAB on appeal) is primarily a comparative exercise.

The SMP must consider the pensioner’s current degree of disablement [Regulation 30(2)(d)] at the date of grant or last review and then compare it with the pensioner’s current degree of disablement.

A revision of the pension, upwards or downwards, is only permissible where there has been a substantially alteration (paragraph 18 Metropolitan Police Authority v Laws 2010) in the degree of the pensioner’s disablement.

This may be occasioned by some substantial improvement or substantial deterioration in his/her medical condition or because of external factors such as the availability of a job or jobs which were not available previously but which are now available to the pensioner either because of the advances in medicine;  e.g. a very ergonomically friendly chair which allows those with chronic back complaints to sit and work at a desk for longer periods and/or changes in the employment market [‘The law degree point in Laws’] such as for example the greater availability of jobs in the private sector for officers with Counter-Terrorism training and experience. 

The right question for the SMP is not “what jobs can this person do today” because that would be a re-assessment of the degree of disablement and not a review.

Further the SMP is forbidden from calculating any quantification on the present degree of disablement unless the SMP has first concluded that there is a substantial alteration in the former officer’s degree of disablement even though HR used to instruct an SMP and often send them a list of suitable jobs before the examination had even taken place. 

‘Degree of disablement’ is defined under Regulation 7(5) as loss of earning capacity. Thus any earnings (or salary) in itself cannot be used to calculate a new degree of disablement and then be used to compare against the previous assessment to prove substantial alteration. 

This is consistent with the purpose of the statutory scheme as outlined by Cox J at first instance in Laws. The scheme recognises that police officers undertake an inherently dangerous job and the purpose of the scheme is to compensate officers for the loss of their careers and any loss of earning capacity going forward past compulsory retirement age and beyond.

Thus the earnings comparator is usually police pay whilst the ex officer is still within CRA. Afterwards the comparator becomes more subjective but the equation is usually the earning capacity of an injured officer as against that of an uninjured officer.

Another heresy is that an ex officer has no earning capacity at state retirement age. It is in any event inconsistent with state retirement being gradually increased to age of 70.

Project Fear

Project Fear

“never to admit a fault or wrong; never to accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time; blame that enemy for everything that goes wrong; take advantage of every opportunity to raise a political whirlwind”
– page 219 Analysis of the Personality of Adolph Hitler: With Predictions of His Future Behaviour and Suggestions for Dealing with Him Now and After Germany’s Surrender, by Henry A. Murray, October 1943

Merseyside’s Project Fear has evolved into Project Threat.  We’ve tried to point them onto a righteous path but they  still do not understand that they cannot threaten to remove an injury award just on the basis of whether or not a questionnaire is completed.

Let us be quite clear for the umpteenth time.  There is no power to punitively revoke an injury award.

Regulation 33 of the Police (Injury) Benefit Regulations states that if there is a negligent or wilful refusal to be medically examined then a decision can be made on the available evidence.   It does not say an award can be taken away as punishment.  In any case this  does NOT apply  to Regulation 37(1) — Reassessment of injury pension — so far as it relates to the statutory duty  placed upon a police pension authority to ‘consider’ whether there has been substantial alteration after a suitable interval.

Only after the police pension authority having considered whether the degree of the pensioners disablement has altered, and a suitable interval has occurred, it MUST then and only then refer the statutory medical question under Regulation 30 (2) (d) –  degree of disablement -to an SMP and, a result, it is only then that Regulation 33 can feasible ever apply.

This is an extract from a threatening letter being sent out to disabled former police officers written by Chief Superintendent Chris Markey, who evidently has never read the Regulations in his life.

remove award

The obvious reply to such a threat is to ask ‘under what power will you use to suspend my injury award?’.    Chief Superintendent Markey would not be able to answer this without either by telling the truth and admitting there is no power or without lying by saying there is and the Regulations permit him to do this (which if you are still in doubt – they don’t). Why would a senior officer debase himself this way?  Would he tell an untruth in a criminal investigation to get what he wants?

The questionnaire is a work of pure villainy.

Mersyeside-questionnaire

Such guff deserves an appropriate response:

Dear Chief SuperNintendo Markey

I recently received a letter from you. Every two years or so I get one. This one suggested that there was an urgent requirement to address the problem of my lack of a questionnaire.

I am sorry, but after all these years my medical condition has not changed, and now I have run out of patience. I understand your need to ensure that people who have an injury award should be considered if there has been substantial change to see if the correct band is being paid, but as someone who never receives a nice and pleasant letter from you just asking ‘how I am and can you help’, I think it’s time you cut me some slack.

I think this and the tone of your letter, and threats of taking my award away, and suggestion that in some way I am a liar is what finally got my goat (I do not actually have a goat either. This is an expression in common usage, although even if I did have a goat I do not believe this amounts to substantial change.)

The questionnaire that you demand of me is rather confusing.  You first ask what my injury is.  Don’t you know?  This seems rather strange.  If you need me to explain it then something is amiss already.

If I answer NO to question 2 and declare that there has been no change then is this farce then over?  Surely you can’t send me to see a SMP if there there  has been no change.  The ‘review’ for all it’s purposes is in effect over.  Or won’t you believe me?

You then ask me to declare medical interventions.  Have you not heard of Chatham House rules? or more colloquially:  What is said to my doctor stays with my doctor.  Putting confidential medical information on a questionnaire that can be read by all and sundry does not seem to the correct way to process personal and confidential information.  The Data Protection Act can be very serious when it comes to medical information.

Throughout the questionnaire you jump from reference to  reference.   Does “your condition” reference back to the “medical condition” referred to at question 1?  Are you surreptitiously trying to determine apportionment in a review!?  Don’t you know you can only consider the degree of disablement.  I hope you aren’t already trying to declare that an unrelated medical condition has overtaken the index injury – in a tatty questionnaire.  Oooh! you are awful!

You then jump to the term “disability”.  Does that phrase simply refer back to the “medical condition” or is it meant to encompass something broader?  If so, what?  You are like a jumping bean, all over the place.

Out of interest have you ever seen the ESA50 form used by the government?  This is to do with applying and reapply for a benefit.  As you know an injury award isn’t a benefit – it is an award for life and the last decision made by the medical authority is final.  But the point is in the ESA50 they don’t just use YES/NO like you’ve done.  They have a ‘it varies’ option.  This is much nicer.  Can I suggest you add it for next time?

I am very puzzled with precisely what way my current ability to drive or ride a motor vehicle or use sporting equipment is relevant to the questions falling for consideration under the Regulations?  I would love it if you could explain this to me.

In like terms, please clarify the relevance of any current annual salary  to the relevant issue for consideration under the Regulations?

At this point I need you to post to me the last questionnaire I filled in and sent you. I can’t remember ever doing this but I may be mistaken.

I would like to see the answers I put. You must have a copy – how else can you compare what I’ve written then to what I might write now?  I do hope you have a copy.  Otherwise this might all be a fresh assessment. And that will be a very naughty thing to do.

Is the question of salary limited to income earned from employment or self-employment or is it meant to encompass income from any source (such as investments)?  This puzzles me. I’ve read and reread the Regulations and can’t see anywhere, anything that gives you authority to be entitled to that information, and how it touches upon the relevant statutory question.

My Great Aunt Bessy died last year (god bless her) and she bequeathed me her house.  I now rent this out.  I can’t see how this affects my capacity to earn.  Sure the rental income is income, but it isn’t earned income.  Could you please help me out with this sticky problem?

As you can see Chief SuperNintendo Markey I do have loads of questions.  I herewith give you 21 days to reply.  If you fail to reply I may take action to suspend any doubt that you are an idiot.

This is not an action that I would usually wish to take

Yours Sincerely and with love

XX

 

 

 

 

Merseyside Police do not review Band 1 Injury Awards

Merseyside Police do not review Band 1 Injury Awards

“The people heard it, and approved the doctrine, and immediately practiced the contrary.”
Benjamin Franklin, The Way to Wealth

The most glaring source of scepticism towards Merseyside Police’s affection for the Police Injury Benefit Regulations can be summed up in  five words: ‘they never review band ones’.

Merseyside Police recently set about conducting a mass review of the degree of disablement of former officers retired due to injury on duty, and who exist on an injury pension paid as compensation for those injuries. Merseyside conducted 502 such reviews last year.

We in IODPA have good reason to believe that these reviews were motivated by an intention to try to save money, and not by any concern to ensure that the pension Regulations were being properly applied. Merseyside was not looking to see if anyone was being paid their injury pension at too low band or too high a band, which would be appropriate if there had been some substantial alteration in their medical condition. No, they set out to see if they could reduce pension payments.

They accordingly started their review programme with those pensioners who are on the highest band of degree of disablement. The highest band pays the highest level of pension attainable, and, can’t be increased, but, Merseyside reasoned, might be reduced.

We revealed in an earlier blog how ‘only’ 25 individuals had their injury pension payments reduced. We don’t know by how much. We pointed out that it was beyond belief that not a single disabled former officer was found to be in a worse condition and given an increase in injury pension payment. Statistically, this lack of any increased pension payments is not possible.

The overall impression is that despite the fact that the Regulations impose on Merseyside’s Chief Constable (as the Police Pension Authority) a duty to ensure that police injury awards are administered fairly and lawfully, the Medical Retirement Officer (MRO) is happy to ignore the law when it suits him. It was the MRO who instigated and managed the reviews, and he has placed his Chief Constable in a very difficult position.

There are 880 individuals retired from Merseyside who receive an injury pension, 502 have been reviewed.  The remaining 378  are all on band one pensions – the lowest payments – and this force has a policy not to review people who have no possibility of having their awards reduced.

Merseyside has ensured our cynical view of its motives by admitting they don’t review band ones. This admission is the clearest possible illustration that it is Merseyside’s view that if there are no pips to squeeze, why get the juicer out of the cupboard?

Here is the admission, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST DJ 092/14 – RESPONSE merseyside
REQUEST RESPONSE
The Medical Retirement Office of Merseyside Police recently sent out a number of letters, together with a questionnaire, to former officers who are retired and in receipt of an injury award pension.

The letters requested that the recipient complete the enclosed questionnaire with a view to considering whether his/her injury pension should be reviewed.

The questionnaire is entitled, ‘Review Of Injury Award Questionnaire’

I am requesting the following information in relation to these letters and questionnaires:

1) How many have been sent out?

2) How many is it intended to send out within the next two months?

3) What criteria were used to select the recipients? When answering please pay particular attention to whether recipients were selected by reason of their age, or by reason of them being at or around what would have been normal compulsory retirement age for the force, or for reason of the degree of disablement of the recipient.

1) The process commenced in 2014 and a total of 35 questionnaires have been sent out to date.

2) Within the next two months it is anticipated that a further thirty questionnaires will be sent out.

3) The criteria for selection of injury award review were based on Band 4, then Band 3, then Band 2. Band 1 will not be reviewed unless requested by the former officer and in that case they would be seen as a priority.

As the self-proclaimed architect of  Merseyside Police’s retirement policy, it seems that the MRO enjoys the privilege of making up the rules to suit himself, and ignoring the Regulations whenever the fancy takes him. We understand that he, as a matter of common practice, acts completely outside the restrictions of the Regulations and makes decisions that he is not empowered to make.

We hear that he decides who will get an injury award and who will be refused. He does this without benefit of medical qualifications, or any meaningful input from the force’s tame SMP or FMA. We believe that the 502 reviews of degree of disablement were done similarly, with little to no consideration of medical matters, and were decided on the basis of a person’s income.

Some police forces have been quick to declare they have a duty to review degree of disablement, citing a positive power to do so, often quoting that a SMP has ‘recommended’ when an individual might be reviewed.  However, these forces do not exhibit moral consistency when they ignore where a SMP may have advised, on a decades old retirement certificate, not to ever review the individual concerned. How many of the 502 who Merseyside reviewed had ‘no reviews’ or ‘no further reviews’ on their certificates? Where was the individual consideration whether a review was indeed appropriate?

The stench of of hypocrisy hangs heavily over Merseyside, but proves nothing about the topic – in reality there is no legal authority for Merseyside to say they won’t review band ones, en masse, just like there there is no legal requirement for a SMP to recommend when a review might take place, or to exempt someone from reviews.

Merseyside completely misses the point, which is that the PPA is required – legally required – to exercise discretion in each individual case. If the PPA (in reality the MRO with one eye on a bit of brown-nosing and career enhancement) decides to review all injury pensions, except for band ones, then there clearly has been not even an imperceptible nod in acknowledgement of the need to decide whether a review would be appropriate in each individual instance.

Below is the result of a recent Freedom of Information request which provides damning evidence that Merseyside will not rest until all injury awards have been reduced to the bare minimum.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST Ref. SM4011/16

REQUEST RESPONSE ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
In FOI request SM322/15 you state that the review was restricted to band 2 and above. Please provide me with the reasons that band 1’s were not reviewed. We can confirm that historically Merseyside Police have not reviewed Band 1 Injury Awards unless the review has been requested by the ex officer themselves The rationale for this approach is that the Force Medical Advisor, acting in the role of Selected Medical Practitioner, records on their certificate “No further review”. The pensioner is provided with a copy of this certificate confirming that this is the case. Therefore they have been formally advised that there will not be a review of their award.

The proposition that an administrative authority must act within the powers conferred upon it by the legislature may well be considered the foundation of Administrative Law. In Latin, ‘Ultra’ means beyond and ‘Vires’ means powers. Thus, the expression ultra vires means an act beyond the powers.

A Selected Medical Practitioner who writes ‘never to be reviewed’ on a former officers H1 certificate is acting beyond their statutory duty. They might have decided the person being assessed for an injury award will never work again, or their condition may likely never improve, but the Regulations do not bestow any authority to allow the SMP to declare that someone should never have their degree of disablement reviewed. Merseyside has seized on these ‘recommendations’ as reason to abandon the over-riding duty of the PPA to ensure that the correct level of injury pension continues to be paid.

What a SMP thought, some years ago, can never be more than a guess. Maybe an informed guess, but as nobody can predict the future, it is plain wrong to claim that a guess, made outside the Regulations, as a sort of extra-regulatory add-on to a certificate, should bind a PPA as to its future actions. If the PPA is claiming that these recommendations are binding, then the PPA is wrong. If the PPA fails to consider, from time to time, for each and every individual who is in receipt of an injury pension, whether their degree of disablement has altered, then the PPA is fettering the power of discretion which the Regulations require he exercise.

We also must question the reason behind any SMP recording on a certificate or in a report his opinion that an individual need not be reviewed. It is not beyond the realms of possibility, given the rampant corruption that we know is the norm in some forces, for the SMP to make that recommendation with the deliberate intent of ensuring that someone who should properly have been placed in a higher band of disablement is never seen by any future, more honest, SMP who would conduct a review and see that the original decision was flawed.

We pause here to speak directly to all the Merseyside pensioners who are on band one. We say, if you have reason to think that you should have been placed in a higher banding when granted your injury pension, or if you feel that your degree of disablement has substantially worsened since you retired, then you should seek professional advice – via IODPA – as any earlier decision on degree of disablement can be challenged by means of regulation 32-(2). That regulations allows the reconsideration of any earlier decision, without limit of time. So, even if you have been retired for many years, you can request that the PPA arrange for any earlier decision to be looked at again.

We recommend that you think carefully about the benefits of using regulation 32-(2) over simply asking the PPA to conduct a review. A review may increase your banding, but any increase in pension payment will commence from the date of the review. If you ask for and get a successful regulation 32-(2) reconsideration of an earlier decision, where the SMP decides you should have been placed on a higher band all those years ago, then you stand to be paid all monies lost by underpayment for all those years, with interest added.

When we look at what Merseyside are saying in the above FOIA response, we have to point out that  it is scurrilous to claim that pensioners were advised they were never to be reviewed. Merseyside could not make that ‘promise’ (or was it a threat?) without breaking into pieces a fundamental part of the Regulations, which is the provision for the PPA to exercise discretion over whether or when to hold a review. Merseyside could not bind any future office-holder’s power of discretion, nor could Merseyside effectively say that the individuals concerned would never experience any alteration in their degree of disablement.

The point is that the Regulations definitely do not allow a band one to be treated any differently from a band four. Merseyside has deliberately set out to deny all the people who are on band one injury pensions any chance of having their pension increased. The recent mass review unfairly discriminated against all former officers who are on band one.

Some HR managers may ask, ‘Why can’t a former officer be labelled as ‘exempt from review’?  The answer is that the Regulations do not confer the power of exemption upon the decision  maker. The decision maker under the Police Injury Benefit Regulations is the Selected Medical Practitioner (SMP) but the decision itself belongs to the PPA.

The way that decisions are to be made has been clarified by cases which went to Judicial Review, but it is still surprisingly common for HR managers to still not understand the profound subtlety of what His Honour Judge Behrens declared in paragraphs 66 and 68 of Crudace, R (on the application of) v Northumbria Police Authority [2012] .  HR managers seem to think that the decision is only for the PPA to make.  It isn’t – the decision is owned by the PPA but it is delegated to the SMP.

  1. He accepts, of course, that the actual decision is made, in the first instance, by the SMP or on appeal by the PMAB. He also accepts that both the SMP and the PMAB are independent. However he submits that the decision is still a decision of the Police Authority albeit a decision that has been delegated to the SMP/ PMAB by regulation 30(2) or 30(3). He referred me to paragraph 18 of the judgment of Laws LJ in Laws where he referred to the decision as being of the Police Authority (via the SMP/board). …

…68.It seems to me that the wording of regulation 37 makes it clear that the decision to revise the pension is the decision of the police authority. It follows, in my view that the decision of the SMP and/or the PMAB on appeal can only be as the delegate of the Police Authority. This is so even though they are independent and the Police Authority is bound to accept their decision as final (subject to reconsideration under regulation 32(2) and/or judicial review).

If the SMP records that it is his opinion that a person should not be reviewed for medical reasons then that is well within his medical judgement to say so and this shall carry weight in any future considerations but the SMP as the promise maker, nor the promise recipient, has any power to enforce it.

That being said there will have to be exceedingly strong and compelling evidence to allow a review if the previous SMP had declared that such a review would be harmful to the former officer’s health.  Just being a band one is not a medical reason and is as opposite to compelling as can possibly be.

The decision maker can declare that a review should be avoided if at all possible:  A SMP might well want to write,“In my medical opinion this former officer should never be reviewed as it will be to the detriment of his health” but such sentiment, or opinion, is worlds away from writing, “I have made a promise to this former officer that he shall never be reviewed”.  Some people reading this will have documents stating exactly that this –  that the last SMP they saw made such a promise to them – but unfortunately a substantive promise cannot be upheld if it is ultra vires.

A declaration made on a medical certificate recording “No further review” giving formal advice that there will not be a review of an individual’s degree of disbalement just because they are a band one is a travesty of not only the Regulations but also the foundations of administrative law.

The statute is clear that there are only two agents involved in the decision making process, the PPA and SMP – so how little weight shall be put on the decision of a civilian medical retirement officer who is telling the force medical officer to write on a certificate to never review someone purely because they can’t be reduced further?

Until Merseyside performs the necessary checks to make sure all the band ones retired from that force are receiving the correct award entitlement, that none of them have suffered  deterioration in their degree of disablement in relation to their earning capacity, and as a result of  these checks a relative proportion of the band ones are increased up a band, then scepticism of their true illegal intentions will forever remain.

Merseyside’s claim that band ones can self-refer themselves if they ever want to be reviewed is ridiculous, given many will not realise the option is open to them, and those that do know will not want to flagellate themselves by dealing with corrupt elements of an organisation which are determined to abuse the scope and purpose of the Regulations. Not a convincing argument by Merseyside Police to encourage a band one to volunteer to put themselves forward.

Remember, pensioners, and take note Chief Constable, that in 2015, in all the reviews of bands two, three and fours, not a single award was increased. Something is rotten in Merseyside, and the smell will only get worse unless someone takes a broom and a shovel and does some stable cleaning.

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...