Who makes the decision to authorise ill health retirement?
It is the employers responsibility to make the decision. They are required by the pension scheme regulations to seek the opinion of a suitably qualified medical practitioner but at the end of the day the employer makes the decision based on all the factors relevant to the case. Contrary to popular belief a scheme member cannot apply for ill health retirement. The employer is responsible for starting the assessment process.
I am receiving employment and support allowance ( formerly incapacity benefit) from the Department for Work & Pensions. Why doesn’t that automatically qualify me for an ill health pension?
The Department for Work & Pensions works to different rules. Basically they look at a much shorter timescale because Incapacity Benefit is designed to provide income for the immediate future. In addition, the Employment and Support Allowance can be withdrawn if the medical condition improves. The ill health retirement assessment is concerned with permanent incapability to do your job which could in some cases be quite different.
What criteria are the doctors working to?
The doctors are working to national guidelines issued by the Association of Local Authorities Medical Advisors. In essence they are looking for evidence that a member has had all available treatment that is considered usual for their particular medical problem, including referral to a specialist for treatment. It is only after this course has been followed that a long-term prognosis can be given and thus a decision on permanent incapacity until Normal Pension Age. Sometimes this is "on a balance of probabilities" basis but certainly GP letters of support that are not backed up by specialist opinion specifically concentrating on the pension schemes criteria will not be sufficient.