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BMA granted judicial review on pensions cap

GPs caught in the Government's pensions cap were given hope this week after the BMA was granted a judicial review.

The Department of Health will now have to defend in court the decision to limit GP pensions, which the BMA claims breaches agreements made within the GP contract.

However, the judicial review process is likely to be a long one, with no ruling expected for at least six months.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, welcomed the decision, having previously vowed to use every possible legal weapon against the Government.

He said: 'The Government's decision is depriving doctors of the pension we believe they have a legal right to receive. There is a very important principle at stake, which is that when the Government makes agreements, it should stick to them.'

Former health minister Lord Warner announced last December that the Government was to cap the dynamising factor – a way of bringing GP contributions to current values – on GP pensions, to 48% over five years.

Although likely to affect all GP pensions, those who retired since April 2006 stand to be hardest hit, with the GPC estimating GPs in that category could suffer a 10-15% drop in their pensions – equivalent to £4,000-£6,000 a year and £12,000-£16,000 on lump sums.

Dr Eric Rose, a GP in Milton Keynes and GPC member who started drawing his pension in April 2006 at the age of 62, said he was pleased the judicial review had been granted, but disappointed it would take so long.

'I share the disappointment felt by many doctors that the process is so slow,' he said.

Dr Andrew Dearden, chair of the BMA pensions committee, said the ruling was a 'very important first step'.

'Many judicial reviews fall at this first stage,' he said. 'To get it approved, a judge has to look at all the evidence and say actually yes, GPC, you have a case.'

Dr Dearden admitted fighting the legal case was likely to be a 'major commitment' for BMA funds, but added: 'Everyone in the BMA is adamant we take this course of action.'

'Having the Government renege on an agreement only two years after they signed it is almost unprecedented,' he said.

Although the Government will not be absolutely bound by the judicial review's decision, BMA lawyers have advised that no Government has ignored such a High Court ruling.

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