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Judicial review into ‘unlawful’ Government handling of NHS pensions set to start

Judicial review into ‘unlawful’ Government handling of NHS pensions set to start

A judicial review into the Government’s ‘unlawful’ handling of NHS pensions is to be heard in the High Court next week.

The review, which will be heard between Tuesday (31 January) and Friday (February 3), will see the BMA appeal the Government’s decision to pass costs related to measures remedying its age discrimination, onto NHS pension scheme members.

The union is challenging the decision to pass on the remedy costs to its members, after the Government committed ‘unlawful’ age discrimination when reforming the NHS pension scheme in 2015, when most public service pension schemes were reformed.

The reforms did not apply to scheme members who were within 10 years of their normal pension age on the 31 March 2012, instead they remained in their legacy schemes with ‘transitional protection’.

After legal challenges were brought by doctors, judges, firefighters and others, the Court of Appeal found this amounted to ‘unlawful discrimination on grounds of age,’ as the protection was offered only to older members of the scheme.

Now the BMA is challenging the way the Government is seeking to remedy ‘its own unlawful discrimination.’

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA pensions committee chair, said: ‘Having been found to have committed unlawful age discrimination when reforming the NHS pension scheme in 2015, the Government is now trying to change the rules to make NHS staff pay for the Government’s own mistake.

‘The BMA is clear that it was the Government who acted unlawfully, that it is their responsibility to fix this, and that affected doctors and other public sector workers must not be disadvantaged as a result of the Government’s unlawful discrimination.’

The BMA’s challenge will be heard by the High Court alongside a related claim brought by the Fire Brigades Union and supported by many other trade unions including the GMB, PCS, Unite, the Prison Officers and Police Superintendents Associations and the Royal College of Nursing.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned that GPs and other members of the public sector pension scheme could be paying for mistakes made by the Treasury for ‘decades’.

The Treasury estimates that putting things right following the change, which the Court of Appeal held to be discriminatory in 2018, will cost around £17bn.

In July last year, the BMA said the Government ‘continues to get things wrong when dealing with the NHS pension scheme and still fails to understand the detrimental impact that the complex NHS pension system and punitive pension taxation arrangements are having on members’.

GP pension experts warned that an average GP could be hit by a ‘nightmare’ £33k tax bill due to the ‘unfair’ way inflation is applied to their pension.

And a Pulse survey which revealed that half of the existing GP workforce plans to retire at or before the age of 60 saw doctors quote problems around pensions as a significant reason.