GP test cases over pension discrimination begin as government appeal fails

GPs have begun age discrimination claims against the government over 2015 changes to the NHS pension scheme, in a series of test cases backed by the BMA.

High Court (Photo: Chris Mansfield/Getty Images)

GPs revealed they had been named in cases that will challenge the government over 'the discriminatory impact of the pension changes that were introduced in 2015'.

The cases follow a landmark Supreme Court decision last week to reject a government appeal against a ruling that similar changes to pensions for firefighters and judges were unlawful.

The BMA said earlier this year that if the appeal over firefighters' and judges' pensions failed, the government should 'agree that the 2015 NHS pension scheme does unlawfully discriminate against its younger members'.

NHS pension scheme

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

Younger doctors who were forced to join the 2015 NHS pension scheme were discriminated against because some older doctors were allowed to retain greater benefits from previous pension schemes as part of a transitional deal, the BMA has argued.

It says the move meant that many doctors were 'forced to join a pension scheme that will result in huge financial losses when they retire'.

Lancashire GP and BMA deputy chair Dr David Wrigley is among GPs named as test cases. He said on Twitter: 'My trade union is taking the government to court over age discrimination with our pensions and I am happy to be the test case.'

GP trainee Dr Marie McVeigh also said on Twitter that she was also challenging the ruling as a test case.

Retirement age

Specialist medical accountant Andrew Pow, a partner at Mazars LLP and board member at the Association of Specialist Medical Accountants (Aisma), told GPonline that if the government was forced to accept that NHS pension changes were also discriminatory, it could affect 'tens of thousands' of GPs.

He said that given the challenges over other public sector schemes had succeeded, there was a 'good chance the NHS challenge will be successful'. NHS pension scheme members aged under 50 years old on 1 April 2015 were pushed onto the new scheme, he said - with the normal pension age rising from 60 to 67 or 68 years old.

If the government was forced to revert to the 1998 scheme it could allow doctors to retire earlier with better benefits.

A Treasury spokesperson said the government was 'disappointed' by the Supreme Court 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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