Controversial changes to pensions rules granting the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care the power to suspend pension payments to doctors charged with a criminal offence, have been thrown out by the Court of Appeal, yesterday, following an appeal brought by the Government against the BMA’s victory in January 2020.
In April 2019, the Secretary of State amended NHS pension rules in England and Wales giving himself the power to suspend payment of pensions benefits to a doctor or NHS professional who had been charged with certain criminal offences, but not yet convicted.
In January 2020, the BMA were successful in having the regulations scrapped but the Government sought to appeal the decision.
The Government sought to appeal the Court’s decision to the Court of Appeal but reached the end of the road in their quest to save these regulations yesterday when the Rt. Hon. Lady Justice Nicol Davies DBE refused permission to appeal.
In reaching her decision Lady Justice Davies, said 'the Secretary of State has come nowhere close to fulfilling his duties' and that the sanctioning of a doctor or NHS professional in advance of a fair trial was capable of causing 'irreversible prejudice that is incapable of later remedy'.
She added that the result of the case would be unaffected by any appeal because there was the clearest possible breach of the PSED (Public Sector Equality Duty).
Commenting on the judgment the BMA’s Interim Director of Legal Services, Gareth Williams said:
'The BMA was deeply disappointed that the Secretary of State for Health chose to introduce regulations that permitted him to suspend our members’ pensions without them having been convicted of any offence or having had the right to a fair trial. We regarded this a clear breach of the law and after trying to resolve matters amicably, we were left with no choice but to take the matter to the High Court for judicial determination.
'We were very disappointed that the Secretary of State chose to appeal the very clear and well-reasoned judgment of the Court that was handed down in January of this year.
'With all the pressures that our members face, it was important that we saw this case through to its conclusion to ensure that they cannot have their pension taken away from them, on the basis of potentially spurious allegations, unsupported by evidence, to which they have never had the right to defend themselves in Court'.
The BMA will now be seeking recovery of its legal costs from the Government.
Notes to editors
- The Court agreed with the BMA’s arguments that regulations breached Article 6 (right to a fair trial), Article 14 (protection from discrimination) and Article 1, Protocol 1 (right to peaceful enjoyment of property) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and also breached the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) under the Equality Act (in failing to have regard to the equality implications of the changes.
The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
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