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BMA threatens legal action over ‘discriminatory’ NHS pension scheme

GP tribunal

The BMA is to help GPs and other doctors sue the Government over the NHS pension scheme if ministers refuse to admit the scheme discriminates against younger members.

BMA solicitors have today written to the health secretary Matt Hancock – as well as to the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland’s Department of Health – to warn of legal action that will accuse the Government of discriminating against doctors by forcing some of them to join a pension scheme.

The BMA said many younger doctors were made to join the new scheme in April 2015 – with approximately 75% of NHS doctors joining the scheme on that date – while older doctors were allowed to stay on the older and more beneficial scheme.

This is not only discriminatory, but will result in ‘huge’ financial losses for some doctors, the BMA has argued.

The news follows a ruling in December by the Court of Appeal, which said the Government discriminated against judges and firefighters in relation to their pension scheme, which is similar to the NHS scheme.

In both circumstances, older doctors and firefighters could stay part of the existing pension scheme – which was deemed better – while the younger members had to transfer to the ‘new and worse’ scheme, which caused significant financial losses, according to the BMA.

The Government is appealing the decision made in December, and if it loses, the BMA wants it to ‘agree that the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme does unlawfully discriminate against its younger members’ and ‘scrap the scheme so that doctors are not adversely affected by it in later years’.

The BMA said unless the Government admits the NHS pension scheme discriminates against younger members, it will help doctors to sue the Government.  

Every doctors whose normal pension age falls after 01/04/2022 should expect to see a positive impact on their pension position if the BMA is successful in this legal action, the body said.

Interim BMA treasurer Dr Trevor Pickersgill said: ‘In 2015, the NHS closed two sections of the NHS Pension Scheme, moving many NHS staff onto a newer 2015 scheme with less valuable retirement benefits.

‘However, it also allowed some older doctors to stay on the previous schemes until they either retired or they moved to the new scheme at the end of a fixed transition period.

‘The BMA alleges that the failure to allow younger doctors to benefit from these transitions constitutes unlawful age discrimination.’   

Dr Pickersgill added: ‘Many doctors had been working towards and planning for their retirement based on membership of the former sections of the NHS pension scheme, only for those plans to be completely disregarded once the Government’s discriminatory changes were brought in.’

Earlier this month, BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey revealed that GPs in their 30s are being advised to cut clinical hours to avoid extra pension charges by their accountants.

Dr Vautrey told Pulse the BMA and NHS England have raised the issue with the Treasury and called for changes to ensure GPs can see patients without having to effectively ‘pay to work’.