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My (Post Office) Life Is Over

My dad arranged the interview. I think he definitely used his position as a manager and his lifelong contacts in the business to get me the interview but it was then down to me to actually succeed and get the job.
He'd started working for the Post Office when he was very young, as was the custom at the time, and had begun as a telegram boy riding bicycles and delivering telegrams all over Bristol. Over the years and with a growing family he worked hard and succeeded in getting on. He'd worked his way up from telegram boy to postman, postman to Postman Higher Grade (PHG), PHG to Postal Officer (PO) and from there to a position in middle management as a crown office Postmaster, 'Postal Executive' and eventually Bristol cash centre manager responsible for the cash supply to and from all Bristol post offices. He was one of the old school who genuinely knew it all and knew most of the other people in the business.
Very young, mindful of my responsibility not to show my father up, and a bag of nerves, I was perhaps not surprisingly unsuccessful. Strings were perhaps pulled however and I was offered instead a job as a postman which I gratefully accepted knowing from my fathers example that it was a job for life and if I kept my nose clean would lead on to advancement. I began training as a postman in October 1979.
In August 1988 I ended up working in a section that dealt with the calculation of Subpostmasters pay and recruitment. Still 'in the quill pen age' this entailed enormous amounts of paper work, letter writing and calculations all without the aid of computers. There was a small team of perhaps five or six of us all crammed into a small closed office no bigger than that of a senior managers office across the corridor and separate from the larger open plan room down the corridor that held many other departments. The team manager, myself and one of my colleagues all smoked and in those days, just before such a practice quite rightly became socially unacceptable, we would have an ash tray on each of our desks and would smoke whenever we chose. Crammed in that cupboard like room, even with the old aluminium windows raised open a crack to allow the city centre fume laden wind to blow through, the air would become sickeningly thick with our smoke from dawn till dusk. Everything took on a yellow tint and the smell of smoke and tobacco clung to everything and everyone.
One of the non-smokers was a relatively young man who had suffered tremendous health problems in his life. Amongst other things it had left him with a difficult attitude, a short temper and a colostomy. I can only begin to imagine the hell that must be a life with a colostomy but I have to say it also isn't easy having to live with someone who has one. I don't know if it is a feature of the condition that everyone with it must simply accept but it seemed that this man would often uncontrollably emit embarrassing noises and a repellant odor from his side. It was difficult but we made light of it and accepted it and tried to ignore it. The smoke laden atmosphere helped in that.
Someone moved on and a young woman joined our crowded department. She was tom boyishly attractive, active and outgoing and was widely fancied by the men. She did her best to fit in to her new, all male department, but tensions began to surface. She was a healthy eating, keep fit type of person who cycled to work and she made it clear that the dense smoky atmosphere was a problem. Only an addicted smoker knows how alienating such an attack on their person can be, but then only a non-smoker knows how physically nauseating being forced to work in such an atmosphere can be. The atmosphere got worse.
Weighed down by the impossibly heavy workload I didn't notice at first. We all of us spent much time getting information from other departments around the building or were frequently snatched for some other urgent 'special job' somewhere else. At some point it dawned on me that she seemed to be spending all her time working from a spare desk in the open plan office down the corridor where most of the people from the other departments worked. I asked what was going on and was told, I forget by which brave person, she was working there because she could not tolerate working near me because of my offensive body odor!
I was emotionally ill equipped to deal with this unexpected turn of events and it turned out to be a major and very negative turning point in my life.
My reasoning went something like this. First and foremost I couldn't understand why she simply hadn't told me. Instead she seemed to have gone out of her way to draw the attention of the whole world to the fact.
I felt utterly humiliated that I was unaware of any problem but all of the rest of the staff were and had said nothing. It had to be true that I was so disgusting to be near that the smoky atmosphere and my colleagues accepted colostomy problem paled into insignificance.


Mr Jones confirmed that he had received PSM's request for an interview and said that this had caused him some concern over the weekend. He asked whether he needed a union representative present. PSM said this was not appropriate although he was free to seek union advice at any time afterwards.

PSM explained that before he had gone on holiday he had noticed a significant change in Terry's attitude towards him. He said that he seemed to be at odds with the world and seemingly was at odds with other people particularly those in his section. PSM explained that while he considered the situation demanded attention, he had decided to leave it until he returned from holiday. On his return Terry was then on holiday and that was why he was dealing with the situation now. PSM went on to explain how difficult inter-personal relationships reflected on working operations and he asked Terry if he had taken deliberate action not to get on with or communicate with the staff in his group. Terry said that as a consequence of the situation relating to his personal odor he had felt alienated and subsequently considered he had been treated unfairly. He felt strongly that his colleagues had not been honest with him and that the situation had not been handled satisfactorily. He said that people have subsequently ignored him and that he had been threatened with suspension if the odors continued and he had found it intolerable to work under such a strain. He claimed that he did not know from day to day whether he would be suspended. PSM said that he understood Terry's feelings but explained that any problem that affected the effective running and working environment in the group was of concern to him which demanded a range of actions- to be taken. He added that he was satisfied with Terry's work performance both in quality and quantity but that if there was a problem in the section it needed to be dealt with. Terry said that he felt that people had a down on him and that he had found it difficult to come to terms with people who he considered had put up a false front when dealing with him, PSM asked him if he had done anything to deal with his personal hygiene. Terry said that the day after the occasion, when he had been spoken to by his immediate manager, he had had a bath and a change of clothes and yet 2 members of staff claimed that they could not work with him and left the office to work in another location. He said that this had left him feeling totally worthless PSM said that matters of personal hygiene were difficult for most people to deal with and the staff concerned had probably felt that they could not approach him themselves. Terry said he had difficulty in understanding this sort of response. PSM explained that this was because he was probably more capable of handling situations and standing up for himself than many other people. PSM said that he should understand that some peoples' approach to dealing with matters could be different from his own. Terry nevertheless maintained that he took it as a personal affront when two of his colleagues walked out. PSM suggested that personal odors were not always easy to remove simply by washing body and clothes but there may be a need to consult his GP. Terry questioned why it should be his colleagues place to judge whether or not he should seek medical help or indeed whether he was suspended from duty. PSM explained that the question of suspension might be necessary as a temporary measure if the problem inhibited the working operations of the group. In these circumstances he would clearly need to take some action to remove Terry from the group. Terry insisted that he did not have a medical problem but was concerned that if his colleagues continued to complain that he would be the one to be moved or lose his job. PSM explained that it was not a clear path and that suspension or loss of job in these circumstances would be very unusual. He said that he had taken such reasonable steps as to have a shower installed and he was now unable to afford his electricity bill in view of his efforts to ensure his personal hygiene. He said that he found it offensive that we should "messwith him" in these matters by suggesting that he should adopt the use of deodorants or purchase new suits. Terry said that he felt he was under threat and agreed that he has subsequently suffered a personality change in as far as he no longer trusts people's responses to him. He therefore did not indulge in social chit-chat about matters unless they were about work. PSM suggested that this action was being taken in retaliation. Terry agreed, but felt he had had no alternative and in any event he was not prone to participating in meaningless conversation or 'tittle-tattle', PSM suggested that he should make some positive attempt to respond to peoples approaches in order to overcome the barriers that had been set up. He said that most people genuinely wanted to communicate and develop a reasonable relationship. Terry said that since the odor situation, he had been very careful to adopt a position of withdrawal from the group. As a consequence he felt there had been less tittle-tattle and in turn the section had become more productive. PSM maintained that it was still important to conduct reasonable social relationships for the ongoing good of the group. He suggested at some length that those relationships were not irretrievable but that efforts should be made on all sides to repair them and suggested that without being false to himself or anyone else that Terry could modify his approach to his colleagues. He reiterated the point that if it became difficult or impossible to run the group because of the actions or attitude of one member of the group then removal of that person might be the only available course of action to follow.

Terry explained that over the course of the last 2 weeks he had in fact come to a similar conclusion but in the light of this interview he felt that he was now on trial and that the situation had been made more difficult for him by placing more pressure on him to inter-act with people in a friendly way. PSM explained that the interview was not intended to put further pressure upon him but was to try and deal with the situation as it now existed. He explained that most people have difficulty in dealing with personal barriers head-on and therefore people normally sought to go around or over them. PSM said that he was not seeking to extract a promise from Terry to modify his behavior and to be nice to everybody all the time as this might not be possible. However to clarify the situation the purpose of the interview was to talk about the real problem that now existed in the Network Group and to try and ensure that Terry did not go out of his way to exacerbate that problem but would work with everyone else to try and break down barriers and regain a reasonable working relationship on all fronts within the group."

I cannot begin to explain how I really felt. I lost any small measure of self-esteem and self-confidence I had in an instant. I wanted to hide away from them all but I had to continue working knowing that everyone, EVERYONE was having to put up with disgusting me. If I were unavoidably forced into going to see anyone about anything I would speak business only and would be almost apologetic for existing.
I began to douse myself with deodorant after showering each morning despite its nauseating affect on ME, in the hope that other people would be able to stomach my presence.
And to me, most crucially of all, the villain in all of this complete destruction of my ego was The Post Office. The team manager had known what was going on and had been too weak to deal with it. Even worse for me was the knowledge that the senior manager across the corridor, a frequent visitor to our room who was responsible for personnel matters and who was always particularly encouraging to the young woman, was also aware of the situation but had done nothing. I developed a chip on my shoulder about the weakness and incompetence of the highly paid management that would never be removed.
My hateful attitude towards the business and all those I worked with, especially those managers, worsened as time went on. If the talk wasn't of work I had nothing to say. Good mornings and the usual pleasantries were forced or denied. Like a sulking child I kept myself to myself. Eventually it was inevitable that this impossible attitude, especially in an office environment, would bring things to a head.

1. On 6 November 1989 I interviewed him about his attitude towards other people in the office. I impressed on him that he needed to help remove the barriers that existed between him and others and to respond positively to approaches by others towards him. I stressed that there was a need to re-build relationships and that he could not work in isolation from his colleagues. There are separate papers covering this incident.
2 During week ending 7 September I observed him using a computer for personal reasons without authority. On enquiry he admitted entering the building without authority on previous occasion(s). I administered an informal oral reprimand at that stage because it was clear to me that he did not appear to consider that his behaviour was wrong. In response to his comment that he felt that he may have "said too much" I warned him about the ultimate consequences of further breaches of discipline. At that time he said that he wondered why he had not been dismissed already.
3 On 22 October I asked him for his current views on the transfer request that he had submitted earlier this year. He stated:
- that he did not want to make it a secret that he wished me harm.
- that he found it distasteful to him when I entered the section
- that he considered I was incompetent
- that he felt that I had destroyed his career prospects
- that he wanted to work as far away as possible from me
- that he would deny some or all of these comments should I raise the matter formally.
In view of his comments I felt unable to discuss further with him the opportunities that had arisen. I said that I would need to reflect on what he had said.
4 On 23 October I interviewed him again. He said that he was not able to retract any of the statements he had made because he felt he was being truthful. He appeared unable to accept that his behaviour towards me was unwarranted. I explained at some length that I preferred not to have to take disciplinary action in view of his forthcoming move to Finance but his present attitude left me with no alternative. I therefore administered a formal oral reprimand on the basis that (1) his current behaviour towards me warranted such action and (2) it may be necessary to refer to these papers at some stage in the future.

Personnel & Services Manager"


Career Chronology
1979 - 1982 Unsuccessful application for Postal Officer 26/9/79.
Successfuly joined as a Postman (51.12p.w.   29/10/79 - 18/7/82)
Following a statutory period of household letter delivery, shiftworked at Bristol mechanised letter/parcel sorting office.
1982 - 1986 Promotion (18/7/82) to Postal Officer on counter duties (5336pa   Weston -Super -Mare training course 19/7/82 - 3/9/82 stayed at Sandringham Villa guest house).
Gained experience of office cash account completion.
Periods (29/5/85 -1986 )as relief officer in charge of various Bristol Crown Post Offices. (Unsuccessful application to become Investigation Officer - interview in Rugby 9/7/85 - 10/7/85)
1986 - 1993 Transfer to Counter Services administration duties (7/1/86) and participation in Crown Office Audits.
Buildings section (9/6/86 - 14/8/88), Network section(15/8/88 - )Assisted in the computerisation of various administrative functions in the Bristol Counters District Office including DOS based system development with BASIC, ANSI menus, batch files and Supercalc and Rapidfile macros
1993 - 1996

Transferred to the new regional office Financial Performance section (28/6/93 - 28/1/96) and a LAN based NOVEL/Windows for Workgroups platform. Continued self taught systems development using the Microsoft Office program suite, primarily Excel4 macros,Visual Basic for Applications and mainframe downloads.

1996 - 1998 Moved to the Management Information section (28/1/96 - 29/5/98) and commenced self taught development, from scratch, of a multi user management information system ('MIDAS' in use until 14/6/2002!!) based on a Visual Basic MS VB3 user interface using SQL to query a large LAN based MS Access 2 relational database.
29/05/1998 (13,957pa) Commencement of sick leave @ approx. 10:00hrs !!!!!!!!!

In early 1997 a well meaning but misguided individual somehow instigated some sort of IT assessment presumably in an attempt to improve my low self-esteem. It of course had precisely the opposite effect.
A letter sent by senior management to IT Services 30/1/97
"We spoke at the start of this week about setting up an assessment for Terry Jones who works for me here in Bristol. I agreed to write setting out some background to enable you to decide how best to approach assessing him.
Terry works in the Management Information Section of the Region where he has distinguished himself in many ways particularly by his innovation and hard work. However we feel that it is quite probable that he has a talent for programming but we have no way of testing whether this is so.
I would be grateful if you would set up a suitable assessment which would give both Terry and the Post Office a better idea of his potential in computing - particularly programming.
I offer a few words about Terry to help you create the sort of environment which will enable him to give of his best. He is very modest about his achievements and wishes to keep his feet firmly on the ground. He is direct in his manner and the expression of his views. Whilst I don't always agree with him I, and the rest of his colleagues, have a great respect for his honesty. He is very much a self starter and doesn't respond particularly well to overt external pressure. I would like this to be a positive experience for him whatever the verdict of the assessment."

"we have arranged for you to undertake an assessment on 14/4/97 with the aim of attempting to assess your capability for working in an IT environment."

The official verdict of the assessment on 14/4/97
Assessment for possible IT Work
We were asked to assess Terry Jones to see if he was suitable to work in an IT environment. To this end we decided too follow the interview process established for IT Graduate recruitment exercise and held a structured interview with combined OA and PA assessments. However, we tried to ensure it was very informal without too much pressure being applied. In addition we asked Terry to undertake two exercises that have been identified as giving an indication as to ability for programming work.
Terry's performance at the interview was very interesting. There is no doubt he is very committed to the application of IT solutions to his current work area. He seemed to have some aptitude for Client Server development techniques which although self taught he was able to discuss with some confidence. We also felt that his interest in computers was sincere and the fact that he was prepared to spend a lot of his own time to substantiate his convictions by developing the Finance system was to his credit. In terms of the other main OA areas Terry's responses were not so good. Terry is by no means daft but didn't really understand what we were trying to achieve in asking logical thought questions. As an example Terry was fine when talking about what he had done on his own project much less so when asked how he thought larger more complex problems would be handled. We also asked him about the future of the Post Office but failed to get him to understand that we were looking for him to be proactive in identifying possible solutions, he just agreed with the premise that the Post Office's future was in great doubt.
From a PA point of view we thought that Terry had some self-confidence in his ideas and certainly lots of drive to achieve his computer system. He readily recognised its faults and identified how to correct them. On a personal basis he has determination to succeed. It did seem to us however that this was on a day to day basis rather than longer term where Terry was somewhat lacking in ambition as to the future, more worrying was the fact that he didn't perceive any need to do anything and was happy to go with the flow. When we asked him about long tem goals he didn't have any, surprising this because we expected him to say he wanted to work with computers.
The two exercises he was asked to complete were Diagramming and Critical Reasoning. Despite him saying he didn't like them, he did well, with 30/40 in one and 38/50 in the other, these are high scores and indicate an aptitude for logical thinking which is needed in IT.
As a summary it is our view that Terry has an aptitude and a desire to work successfully in an IT field. This would probably be limited to a programming role initially as we were slightly concerned about his lack of customer skills, he was perhaps too honest for his own good and by his own admission is not the most diplomatic person. Terry refuses to play the Post Office game to achieve progression but it is our view that if he tried to change he would find the rewards from a work point of view more fulfilling.

What is not mentioned here is that during the interview one of the interviewers clumsily trying to get to the bottom of what career ambition I had, especially since after fifteen years I was still 'only' a postal officer, suggested that I had wasted fifteen years of my life. It was impossible for me not to agree and so this was to be the overriding impact and memory of the experience.
Hardly a boost to my flagging self esteem!

Work Absence Record
From To Days Type Reason
07/11/88 8/11/88 2 Sick Mild food poisoning
21/11/88 - 1 Industrial Action Against Post Office closures
12/12/88 - 1 Industrial Action Against Post Office closures
06/07/90 - 1 Sick Depression
19/02/91 20/02/91 2 Special Leave Clearing up after burglary
29/05/91 31/05/91 3 Industrial Action Against Post Office closures
07/06/93 08/06/93 2 Sick Sickness, nausea, diarrhea
17/12/93 - 1 Special Leave Funeral of Grandmother
28/02/94 14/03/94 15 Sick Depression
12/12/94 - 1 Industrial Action Against Post Office closures
06/02/96 09/02/96 4 Sick Depression
29/05/98 06/08/99 434 Sick Depression
Chronological Bare Bones
29/05/98 Commencement of sick leave @ approx. 10:00hrs.
03/06/98 Receipt of Employee Health Services leaflet from EHS Gloucester
15/06/98 Doctor appointment 09:30 - Dr 'X' (My doctor Dr 'Y' on sabbatical)
03/07/98 Personnel request for consent to application for and release of personal medical information. Completed and returned on 06/07/98.
06/07/98 Further Employee Health Services leaflet from EHS Gloucester and details of appointment to see Employee Welfare Advisor (EWA) on 21/07/98 @ 14:00 hrs at office in Bristol.
13/07/98 Doctor appointment 09:30 - Dr 'X'
17/07/98 Letter from Personnel Manager notifying me of her intention to visit me at home on 23/07/98 @ 10:00 hrs !!!
21/07/98 Appointment notification from Frenchay Hospital for Dr 'W' on 13/08/98 @ 09:15.
21/07/98 Meeting with EWA - at my request she called off the meeting with Personnel Manager.
??/??/98 Received a note from EWA that "ill health retirement is being actively pursued for you. The next step is for you to be seen by the Area Medical Adviser (AMA) for the Post Office."
10/08/98 Doctor appointment 09:40 - Dr 'X'
13/08/98 Meeting with Dr 'F' instead of Dr 'W' at outpatients psychiatric clinic Frenchay Hospital.
25/08/98 Notification from Dr 'A' Psychotherapy Unit Blackberry Hill Hospital of referal for assessment interview if desired.
??/08/98 Desire for assessment confirmed by phone.
07/09/98 Doctor appointment 09:20 - Dr 'X'
07/09/98 Notification from Dr 'A' Psychotherapy Unit Blackberry Hill Hospital of appointment for assessment @ 14:00 on 22/09/98.
??/09/98 Attendance confirmed by phone.
22/09/98 Meeting with Dr 'A' & Dr 'K' at Psychotherapy Unit Blackberry Hill Hospital.
02/10/98 Personnel notification to confirm that following the discussion with EWA an appointment has been arranged for me to see the AMA (Dr 'D') @ 09:30 on 16/10/98 at West of England Mail Centre to assess the possibility of medical retirement.
05/10/98 Doctor appointment 09:20 - Dr 'Y'
15/10/98 Notification from Psychotherapy Unit Blackberry Hill Hospital of referal for assessment interview if desired.
16/10/98 Meeting with AMA (Dr 'D')
22/10/98 Meeting with Psychotherapist at Blackberry Hill Hospital.
23/10/98 Doctor appointment 09:40 - Dr 'G' (Dr 'Y' not available.)
30/10/98 Began weekly attendance of a psychotherapeutic group at Blackberry Hill hospital Psychotherapy Unit
11/12/98 Personnel notification of half rate pay from 1/1/99. (Due to a 'miscalculation' the proper date of 29/11/98 was missed. No overpayment recovery ! )
17/12/98 Doctor appointment 10:30 - Dr 'Y'.
??/12/98 Personnel request for consent to application for and release of personal medical information. Completed and returned on 30/12/98.
11/01/99 Letter from Employee Health Services pp AMA (Dr 'E') informing me that he had written to my Specialist requesting a report on my current medical condition and informing me I should make arrangements to see the report when prepared. Psychotherapist at Blackberry Hill Hospital informed me that he had refused to provide a medical report since the letter he had received adressed him as 'doctor' and since he was not an MD he could not oblige. !??
19/01/99 Doctor appointment 09:30 - Dr 'Y'.
09/02/99 Doctor appointment 09:00 - Dr 'Y'.
23/02/99 Personnel notify me of an appointment to see AMA (Dr 'E') @ 14:00 on 02/03/99 at West of England Mail Centre.
02/03/99 Doctor appointment 10:10 - Dr 'Y'.
02/03/99 Meeting with AMA (Dr 'E')
25/03/99 Personnel notification of half rate pay from 01/03/99. (Due to the proper date of 01/01/99 having been 'unfortunately overlooked'. No overpayment recovery !! )
06/04/99 Doctor appointment 09:00 - Dr 'Y'.
12/05/99 Personnel (HR Service Centre Salford ???) notification of sick pay at pension rate from 25/05/99. Request to "continue to submit your medical certificates to this office".
??/05/99 I rang HR Salford asking them to check the pension rate date since I felt it was wrong by a few days and because my previous pay changes had been "cocked up ". I was asked not to swear at the person to whom I was speaking ! She was adamant no mistake had been made and refused point blank to accept the possibilty. I rang back and apologised and told them not to bother !!!!!
21/05/99 Receipt of Employee Health Services leaflet from EHS Gloucester?
27/05/99 Doctor appointment 10:20 - Dr 'Y'.
27/05/99 Personnel notify me of an appointment to see AMA (Dr 'D') @ 10:30 on 02/06/99 at West of England Mail Centre.
30/05/99 A colleage and 'friend' informed me he had arranged without my knowledge a meeting with a personnel manager on 28/05/99 at which they had freely discussed my case. He informed me that during the meeting the personnel manager had informed him that I had not attended a previously arranged meeting with a POCL representative!?
02/06/99 Meeting with Dr 'D' locum AMA who informed me I was not eligible for medical retirement because of the wording of the psychiatric reports that had been received. I became upset but was assured he would look into the matter because he thought the conclusion inappropriate.
25/06/99 Met with Mr psychotherapist and obtained copies of the reports that had been provided to the Post Office by Dr 'A'
"I assessed him for psychotherapy on the 2 October 1998 in which I recommended group therapy. He has since started in a psychotherapeutic group run by my colleague, psychotherapist. He has attended the group weekly since the 30 October 1998.
I have not reviewed Mr Jones personally since my assessment but have had some feedback from
psychotherapist as to his progress.
He was originally referred to me by Dr 'F', Senior House Officer to Dr 'W', with a diagnosis of longstanding schizoid and dysthymic personality traits with intermittent bouts of depression. When I assessed him he described two areas of difficulty in his life, namely a longstanding inability to enjoy life or fit in and, more recently inexplicable tearfulness. He has always found it difficult to relate to others, whether it is handling confrontations or dealing with friendships. His lifestyle has reflected this, with few interests or hobbies and a largely solitary life staying indoors and watching television.His difficulties in relation to others have caused problems at work. He says that he was deeply hurt by an incident several years ago when a female colleague requested to move because of his body odor. He feels that his efforts at work went unacknowledged. He also found compulsory exercise and team building humiliating. He stopped work in the summer of 1998.
I will now respond specifically to your questions. The diagnosis is one of schizoid personality disorder ICD10 F60.1. In addition he has occasional episodes of depression. The episodes of depression are being managed by his GP with appropriate antidepressant medication (Lofepramine 70mgs bd). His personality disorder is being managed in the psychotherapy group run by
It may be that the difficulty Mr Jones is experiencing in getting a decision on medical retirement is distressing him, but I do not think this is fundamental to his current bouts of depression nor to his underlying personality disorder. I am not convinced that granting medical retirement will be beneficial to his health. Indeed, I think work provided him with some contact with ordinary people which he is in danger of cutting himself off from completely. Now that he is engaged in ongoing group therapy he may well be better able to manage the relationship problems which would arise in the workplace. Group therapy is specifically designed to address people's relationship styles and difficulties.
When I saw him in October I felt that he was in a psychological state which would allow a reasoned decision about his future and there is no indication from
psychotherapist that this has changed recently.
I am not certain how much his condition would deteriorate if he stopped his medication as this clearly has no impact on the personality disorder but only on the recurrent episodes of depression.
My impression from my assessment and reports from
psychotherapist is that Mr Jones could work well given sensitive and understanding line management. I think that a return to work is a reasonable goal for Mr Jones, and that it would be in his interest to do so, although clearly he may not wish to do so. It may be worth setting this as a goal for him to achieve within the next six months. A gradual return would, I imagine be helpful."
"I stand by my conclusion from my report of the 17 March that Terry could work if given sensitive and understanding line management. It may well be that this will be difficult within the current uncertainties and instability in the Post Office. I see no reason why there should not be an open discussion with Terry on these matters.
I understand he is making good progress with the group therapy and hope that he will be able to find suitable employment either within your organisation or elsewhere."
27/06/99 I could not contain my anger and wrote as follows:
Dear Mr

Following our meeting on 25/6/99 I feel obliged to write to you. I wish to voice my concern over the content of the report dated 17 March 1999 sent by Dr 'A' to the Post Office Area Medical Advisor and a follow up letter of 12th May, copies of which upon my request you have provided me with.

I was unaware such letters had been written until told by the Post Office Area Medical Advisor on 2nd June 1999. This, despite my having given consent to an application for and release of personal medical information to the Post Office Occupational Health Service on the understanding that I would first have sight of any such information.
My first sight of them was as a result of asking you on 18th June if it could be arranged for me to see whatever may exist in my file.

I feel obliged to comment on some of the key points as follows.
"intermittent bouts of depression" - I do not accept this comment which is presumably based on my GP visits. I have suffered from varying degrees of depression almost constantly for at least 15 years only consulting my GP for help as a final last resort. Indeed over the years I have privately tried meditation, healing, herbal remedy, hypnosis, psychotherapy and even drug abuse in an attempt to control it.

"His difficulties in relation to others have caused problems at work." - A complicated chicken and the egg situation. Much of my problems with relationships have been caused by some of the treatment I have received at work which has resulted in a complete withdraw from any form of social life. I blame the Post Office for much!

"The diagnosis is one of schizoid personality disorder ICD10 F60.1. In addition he has occasional episodes of depression. The episodes of depression are being managed by his GP with appropriate antidepressant medication (Lofepramine 70mgs bd). His personality disorder is being managed in the psychotherapy group run by psychotherapist." - Since I stopped working I have sought whatever medical assistance was available to me believing that the doctor and psychotherapists knew what was best for me.

It was my impression that I was referred to the psychotherapy group run by you because in my original assessment interview with Drs 'A' and 'K' on 22/9/98 I had mentioned that I had been on a meditation course over the weeks immediately prior to my 'breakdown'. As I understand it the group psychotherapy session aims to equip the participants with a set of coping skills by means of music, mantras, guided meditations, etc.
It disturbed me that my therapy should be nothing new and was teaching me techniques that I already knew very well and was unsuccessful at effectively implementing. This was however my treatment so what else could I do?

My GP did prescribe Lofepramine for many months but I reported to him that I was experiencing unpleasant side effects (especially dry mouth resulting in gum disease/tooth extraction) with little or no perceived improvement. I was switched to Prozac at the beginning of the year. Different unpleasant side effects including an increase in agitation and aggression appeared. I felt no less despairing and felt increasingly out of touch with myself.
The psychotherapy group was clearly biased towards managing personal problems without medication and since I could identify no positive benefit from the drugs I had been prescribed I felt vindicated in stopping them in May.

I have actively avoided asking for sight of the psychotherapist's report or broaching the subject of what their opinion of my condition is since I assumed I would find their conclusions hurtful and damaging.
Only now after having seen the letter do I realize that the GP and psychotherapists are two totally separate bodies dealing with separate issues who apparently do not communicate with one another. As a result I have perhaps mistakenly ceased taking the medication aimed at my depression and have presumably made it extremely difficult for my GP since I am still asking him for medical certificates but am refusing his medication! He has in fact already made it clear that he is uncomfortable continuing to do so! Each visit to my doctor is now a time of extreme anxiety.

"It may be that the difficulty Mr Jones is experiencing in getting a decision on medical retirement is distressing him, but I do not think this is fundamental to his current bouts of depression nor to his underlying personality disorder. I am not convinced that granting medical retirement will be beneficial to his health. Indeed, I think work provided him with some contact with ordinary people which he is in danger of cutting himself off from completely. Now that he is engaged in ongoing group therapy he may well be better able to manage the relationship problems which would arise in the workplace. Group therapy is specifically designed to address people's relationship styles and difficulties." - I have now been off work for almost 400 days.
I cannot attempt to convey the stress, anxiety, depression and paranoia that I have felt, powerlessly awaiting my fate in this matter for so very long. The question of whether or not I qualify for a medical retirement is absolutely a question of life or death to me. It has taken over almost every waking thought. I see it as my only hope of perhaps salvaging something of my shattered life. Without it I can see no future for myself at all. I do not believe I will ever be able to face returning to work for the Post Office and with increasing paranoia, no self esteem and no self confidence do not see myself being able to work elsewhere.
I presume that all my life savings will have to be used up before I can approach the DSS for some form of benefit. I have already had to sell my car.

On 2nd June I was informed by the Post Office Area Medical Advisor that I did not qualify for a medical retirement because of Dr 'A's report.

I feel absolute despair and very deeply hurt that my fate has been decided in this way in spite of me. My own feelings, desires, and concerns have been ignored. At no time have I been directly asked to contribute in any way to this report, which I believe is inaccurate and inappropriate.
I now feel absolutely worthless, hopeless and completely alienated from the very people to whom I had so desperately turned for help!
Yours sincerely
Terry Jones
cc: Dr 'E' AMA
Post Office E.H.S.
01/07/99 Notification of an appointment with EWA at my home on 8/7/99 to discuss my views on proposed medical retirement. I rang them in confusion since I had only recently been told I did not qualify.
01/07/99 Letter from Dr 'E' confirming after speaking to the locum Dr 'D' he has decided there are sufficient medical grounds to recommend Medical Retirement to the Post Office.
08/07/99 Visited at home by EWA to 'finalise' details of my retirement! I didn't believe her!!
20/07/99 Letter from Employee Support Bristol stating "serious consideration is now being given to your retirement on health grounds"
22/07/99 Doctor appointment 10:20 - Dr 'Y'.
27/07/99 Notification from HR Service Centre of last day of service of 06/08/99
06/08/99 Last day of service


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