BMA confirms 'at least a dozen' doctors taking legal action over pensions

At least a dozen doctors are taking legal action against the government over 2015 changes to the NHS pension scheme that may have been unlawful on the grounds of age discrimination, the BMA has confirmed.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul (Photo: JH Lancy)

GPonline reported earlier this week that GPs were among doctors who had begun legal action after the government lost a bid to appeal against a court ruling that changes to other public sector pension schemes were discriminatory.

The Treasury confirmed on Monday that 'the government is considering the impact of this decision on stayed cases regarding transitional protection in other schemes'.

The BMA confirmed today that legal action had begun on behalf of 'at least a dozen' doctors, with 'many more' expected to follow suit this month.

NHS pensions

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'Although doctors’ pension schemes are different, the BMA believes the underlying legal principles are essentially the same and we want to bring a challenge on behalf of the UK’s younger doctors regarding the legality of the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme.

'In March of this year, the BMA wrote to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock warning him of the intention to take legal action. Letters were also sent to the Scottish and Northern Ireland governments on behalf of members in those nations. We have made our intention and position very clear and we expect to support many more doctors in the coming month.'

The BMA has said that doctors face 'huge financial losses when they retire' after being forced to move to the NHS pension scheme introduced in 2015.

Earlier versions of the pension scheme were closed down in 2015, with a new scheme put in place that offered lower benefits. But some older doctors were allowed to remain on the previous scheme until retirement, or for a fixed period of time.

Legal action

The BMA is now alleging that 'the failure to allow younger doctors to benefit from these transitions constitutes unlawful age discrimination'. It has called on the government to acknowledge that the 2015 change was unlawful and to scrap it.

Late last month the government was refused leave to appeal a judgment relating to changes to firefighters' pensions in 2015. Changes to the firefighters' scheme meant that 'older members could stay in the existing and better pension scheme, and younger members had to transfer to a new and worse scheme, which was financially detrimental to them'.

The Fire Brigades Union fought the changes on the basis that they were unlawful on age, sex and race discrimination grounds.

A Treasury spokesperson said the government was 'disappointed' by the decision to reject its appeal. The spokesperson said: 'The government will now consider how best to compensate those affected by the judgment as part of the court process.

'The judgment does not alter the government’s commitment to public sector pensions that are fair to both workers and taxpayers.'

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