Ombudsman decisions on ill-health highlight the importance of adequate information

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Two recent decisions by the Pensions Ombudsman highlight the importance of ensuring that adequate information is obtained from and provided to the registered medical practitioner when considering an application for an ill-health early-retirement pension.

In the case of Winterbotham, the test for receiving an ill-health pension was whether the member’s ill-health had made him permanently incapable of discharging efficiently the duties of his employment. The scheme in question was the Local Government Pension Scheme, and the decision-maker was the member’s last employer, who was obliged to obtain an opinion from an independent registered medical practitioner qualified in occupational health medicine as to whether the ill-health test was satisfied. 

In Dr Winterbotham’s case the medical practitioner gave an opinion that the ill-health test was not satisfied. He commented that there were treatment avenues which remained unexplored which might typically be expected to improve the member’s health, potentially to a level which would allow the member to return to employment at his previous level. However, the medical practitioner did not give any detail as to what the untried treatments were…

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