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PLH Commissioner's File: CIB 0511/05
SOCIAL SECURITY ACTS 1992-1998
APPEAL FROM DECISION OF APPEAL TRIBUNAL
ON A QUESTION OF LAW
DECISION OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSIONER
Claim for: Incapacity Benefit
Appeal Tribunal: Newcastle
Tribunal Case Ref:
Tribunal date: 20 September 2004
Reasons issued: 23 November 2004
1. The decision of the Newcastle appeal tribunal sitting on 20 September 2004 is conceded to have been erroneous in law for the reasons identified in the written submission of Ms C Brayshaw on behalf of the Secretary of State dated 11 April 2005 at pages 106-7. I accept that concession as rightly made, set aside the tribunal decision and in accordance with section 14(8)(b) Social Security Act 1998 remit the case for rehearing and redetermination by a differently constituted tribunal, the claimant's representative Ms S Farrow of Gateshead CAB not objecting to that course.
2. As pointed out in the grant of leave dated 10 March 2005 at page 105 the tribunal's statement of reasons at page 92 fails to show that they have addressed the question of manual dexterity and how it was affected by his osteoarthritis. In that I think they were at fault, as this appears to have been the main source of disability identified at the previous medical examination in 1999, and the reason he was accepted as qualifying for benefit for a number of years. With this kind of degenerative condition the claimant's specific contention in his appeal that his arthritis was “much worse” (page 57) ought to have been addressed to show a fair consideration of the issues in the case, for the same reasons as in renewal cases on disability living allowance: cf. R(M) 1/96.
3. In addition, I accept the submissions of Ms Brayshaw that there were other apparent discrepancies and inconsistencies in the computerised medical examination report used in this case that ought to have been picked up and dealt with by the tribunal as well. The use of this system, in which statements or phrases appear to be capable of being produced mechanically without necessarily representing actual wording chosen and typed in by the examining doctor, obviously carries an increased risk of accidental discrepancies or mistakes remaining undetected in the final product. Tribunals ought in my view to take particular care to satisfy themselves that reports presented to them in this form really do represent considered clinical findings and opinions by the individual doctor whose name they bear, based on what actually appeared on examination of the particular claimant. Tribunals who fail to identify and deal with apparent discrepancies such as those shown up here run an obvious risk that their own consideration of the case may be criticised as insufficient, especially if standard phrases such as the wording this one used - “The Tribunal preferred the evidence of the medical advisor which was based on clinical examination and findings.” - are given as the reason for rejecting the claimant's own account of his disabilities.
4. The appeal is allowed and the case remitted for rehearing accordingly.
P L Howell
25 May 2005