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BMA takes legal action over pensions transfer

The BMA is taking action against the Government on behalf of at least a dozen doctors who believe they were forced to join a pension scheme that will result in huge financial losses when they retire.

It comes in the wake of the Government being refused leave to appeal a court of appeal decision, which it lost last December. It centred on the FBU (Fire Brigades Union) dispute over changes made to firefighters’ pensions in 2015.

The alterations meant that older members could stay in the existing and better pension scheme, and younger members had to transfer to a new scheme which was financially detrimental to them.

The FBU argued that the changes, imposed, on younger members, were unlawful on age, sex and race-discrimination grounds.


Defend the young

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Although doctors’ pension schemes are different, the BMA believes the underlying legal principles are essentially the same and we want to bring a challenge on behalf of the UK’s younger doctors regarding the legality of the 2015 NHS pension scheme.

‘In March of this year, the BMA wrote to the health and social care secretary Matt Hancock warning him of the intention to take legal action. Letters were also sent to the Scottish and Northern Ireland Governments on behalf of members in those nations. We have made our intention and position very clear and we expect to support many more doctors in the coming month.’

In 2015, the NHS closed two sections of the NHS pension scheme, moving most NHS staff on to a newer 2015 version 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 argues that the failure to allow younger doctors to benefit from these transitions constitutes unlawful age discrimination.


Discrimination plea

Now that the Government’s appeal against the FBU has failed, the BMA wants it to agree that it did unlawfully discriminate against the scheme's younger members.

It wants the Government to scrap the scheme so that doctors are not adversely affected by it in later years.

The tribunal will now be processing the claims and will take up to a month before they are seen by the Government. Once received, the Government will have 28 days to respond. The BMA will be writing letters to the relevant departments in Scotland and Northern Ireland to request that the Government concedes liability considering the supreme court decision which applies to England and Wales, to avoid ‘unnecessary’ litigation.

The 2015 NHS pension scheme was introduced on 1 April, 2015, with approximately 75 per cent of NHS employees joining the scheme on that date.

Pension scheme members who were within 10 years of their national pension age on April 1, 2012, are fully protected from the 2015 NHS PS and remain on the older scheme. But doctors who were more than 13.5 years from their NPA on April 1, 2012, or who joined the scheme from April 1, 2015 have no protection from the 2015 scheme.

Find out more about the BMA's work on pensions

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