BMA beats DoH in judicial review on pensions

Retired GPs may receive pension increases of up to £10,000 a year after BMA victory in pension battle.

Recently retired GPs could be in line for a £10,000 boost in their annual pension, after the BMA won its judicial review case against the government in the High Court.

GPs who are still working could also benefit, because the value of their pension pots could rise by 10 per cent for the period 2003/8.

Mr Justice Mitting found then-health secretary Patricia Hewitt had overstepped her legal powers in 2006, when she retrospectively capped the 'dynamising factor' used to bring pensions up to present-day values. Judicial reviews are not legally binding, meaning that the government could choose to ignore the findings.

The case centred on the government's 2006 decision to cap the dynamising factor at 30 per cent between 2003/6 and 48 per cent for the period 2003/8.

It was estimated that the dynamising factor for 2003/6 was already 48 per cent and should be 58 per cent for 2003/8.

Government lawyers unsuccessfully argued that Ms Hewitt's actions were legal, and claimed that higher pensions would divert cash away from patient care.

But the judge found that, while the secretary of state has power to impose a cap, she could not do so retrospectively, because doctors had signed a contract in expectation of certain pay and pension levels.

Mr Mitting was expected to take over a week to reach a decision. But he found in favour of the BMA after a matter of hours.

Those most affected by the decision were the GPs who have retired since April 2006.

Dr Eric Rose, who drew his pension in 2006, says the cap had cost him between £5,000 and £8,000 a year. 'I'd hope that if the DoH has any shred of decency, it will now implement the agreement in the 2003 GMS contract,' he said. 'But I fear that it won't.'

The government has leave to appeal the decision, and is considering its next move.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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