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Scoffield and the Art of Recommendations

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Scoffield and the Art of Recommendations

Post by Urtica on Mon May 04, 2015 2:02 pm

David Scoffield, QC has made several recommendations in his detailed report on the administration of police injury pensions in Northern Ireland. As the Regulations here are essentially similar, it can only be a matter of time, and pressure from IOD pensioners and their representatives, before we must surely see Scoffield type common sense and legal integrity applied to our injury pensions.

Let's look at one of his recommendations.

Recommendation 11:  There should be a move away from automatic review for all cases at any fixed interval set in policy.  The judgment as to when a review is appropriate should be made on a more case-sensitive basis, driven particularly by medical advice on this issue from the SMP and/or IMR (although it ought to remain open to an officer to request a review himself at any time and the Board should also retain the right to initiate a review at any time if information comes to its attention identifying an apparent relevant change in circumstances).  SMPs and IMRs should expressly be asked to provide the Board with advice on this issue in their completion of reports.

Some forces have routinely asked the SMP to make a recommendation as to when a future review might be appropriate. Unfortunately, this has rarely been handled properly. Not least because the Home Office supplied the pro forma certificates for the SMP to complete and they contained a line stating,

'I recommend that the police authority should consider in . . . . months'/years' time whether the degree of disablement has altered.'

The exact wording has altered over time and from force to force as HR functionaries amended the pro formas, but the inherent fault remained the same. Because this line was pre-printed on an official form SMPs thought they were under a legal obligation to put something in the blank space. And so they did, whether or not they thought there was any realistic probability of the individual experiencing the substantial alteration in their medical condition that would be required before their injury pension could be revised.

Worse, some SMPs worked for forces which had policies of holding reviews at regular intervals. Thus the SMP merely filled in the blank with a time which reflected the policy.

Then there is the matter of prognosis. For this is what the SMP was being asked to do - to predict what the future state of the pensioner's disablement might be at some fixed point in the future. Prognosis in not an exact science. It is not even a science. It is, at best, a guess, based mainly on statistics relating to other people who have had similar conditions.

Note also there is no space for the SMP to say that he either does not recommend any future reviews or that he can't decide whether one might be appropriate. The form is designed to force the SMP to make a recommendation which has about as much medical authority as a marshmallow in a sausage factory.

Would you expect any doctor to write out a prescription for you to take three pills a day, starting in two year's time?  Yet this is essentially what a SMP would be doing if he recommends a future review. Let's be brutally frank. No SMP can predict the future and at best the SMP can only have the most general idea, if any, as to the future condition of the individual.

So when Scoffield says that the timing of a review ought to be guided by medical advice on this issue from the SMP and/or IMR I think we need to be very careful how we let HR interpret his words. Each case ought to be considered individually, with no pressure from the force. Moreover, the time for the SMP or IMR to give an opinion is surely not at the time of a review or at grant of an injury award, but at some time in the future, when the force wishes to raise the issue.

In other words, the SMP should only indicate when the force should in future ask for an opinion on whether a review is now appropriate.

Whilst this recommendation by Scoffield may raise more questions than it addresses, one thing does stand out as crystal clear. No force should have a policy to hold reviews according to a timetable, or by reference to anyone having reached a particular age.

Avon and Somerset have commenced a mass review, and have based their selection of the first 16 to be reviewed on the basis of the age of the individuals and the fact that they are all on band four. This is clearly unlawful and didn't need Scoffield to tell us that.


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