Select Committee on Social Security Sixth Report


Medical Policy

  23. The nature of the War Pensions Scheme is such that interpretation of medical opinion is of the utmost importance. Claims can be made for any disablement and awards are made where there is a causal link to service.[76] The DSS's Medical Policy Division plays an important role in ensuring that decisions are medically sound and as far as possible reflect generally accepted medical understanding of conditions.[77] There has been a degree of controversy over some of these decisions in recent years. In particular, decisions in respect of Noise Induced Sensorineural Hearing Loss and claims resulting from service in the Gulf War have caused public controversy.[78] The War Pensions Agency memoranda helpfully outlined the basis of these decisions.[79] In the public evidence session Dr Braidwood, the Medical Policy Manager for war pensions, clarified the medical basis of the current practice.[80]

24. It is important that the Department is seen to be acting fairly in the medical decisions that it reaches. We were pleased to hear that the Government remains open to further medical evidence.[81] The Agency's supplementary memorandum stressed that developments in medical opinion are closely followed:

    "The medical policy adviser is in routine close contact with medical and scientific colleagues throughout the Department, in other Government departments and academic institutions in the UK and overseas. There is communication with doctors in the United States Department of Defense and Veterans' Affairs Departments in the United States, Canada and Australian Repatriation Medical Authority. These wide sources are used to inform the guidance and statements produced on medical aspects of disablement issues."[82]

In areas of medical controversy, consideration might be given to the commissioning of medical evidence jointly with the ex-service community so as to develop common ground and avoid the divisions that we have seen in recent years.

76   Q 37. Back

77   Q 112. Back

78   See the following Reports from the Defence Select Committee: Third Special Report, Session1994-95, Progress of Committee's inquiry into the Gulf War Syndrome, HC 317; Eleventh Report, Session 1994-95, Gulf War Syndrome, HC 197; Sixth Report, Session 1996-97, Gulf War Illnesses: recent developments, HC 158. Back

79   see. Ev. p.4, para. 2.5-2.8; Ev. p.42, para. 5.1-5.22. Back

80   Q 60-63; Q 116-117. Back

81   Q 37. Back

82   Ev. p.43, para. 5.19. Back

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Prepared 23 June 1999