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BMA to help doctors sue Government over discriminating NHS pension scheme

The BMA is to support doctors to sue the Government because it believes many were forced to join a pension scheme that will result in huge financial losses when they retire. Today BMA solicitors have written to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, warning him of the intention to take legal action. Letters have also been sent to the Scottish and Northern Ireland governments on behalf of members in those nations.

The action, by the BMA’s legal team, comes in the wake of the Court of Appeal ruling last year which stated that the Government discriminated against judges and firefighters on the grounds of age, race and equal pay in relation to changes to their pension schemes. Although the schemes are different, the BMA believes the underlying legal principles are essentially the same. The outcome of the legal challenges to the judges and firefighters ruling could influence any legal challenge brought on behalf of younger doctors to the legality of the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme.

Dr Trevor Pickersgill, interim BMA treasurer, said:

“The BMA’s solicitors have written to the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, advising that the Association is to support members in suing the Government for discriminating against doctors by forcing many of them to join a pension scheme which will cause them huge financial loss.  We have also written to the Scottish Government and Department of Health (Northern Ireland) on behalf of members in those nations.

“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.   

“Last December, the Court of Appeal said that the Government discriminated against judges and firefighters on the grounds of age, race and equal pay in relation to changes to their pension. In line with the changes to the NHS Pension scheme, firefighters similarly could stay in the existing and better pension scheme, and younger members had to transfer to a new and worse scheme, causing significant financial losses.

“The Government has said it will appeal this decision, but the BMA is demanding that, should that appeal fail, the Government will agree that 2015 NHS Pension Scheme does unlawfully discriminate against its younger members. The BMA wants the Government to scrap the scheme so that doctors are not adversely affected by it in later years. 

“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.”


Notes to Editors

  • The letters to the Health Secretary, Scottish and Northern Ireland Governments can be found here
  • On the 1 April 2015 the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme (NHSPS) was introduced with approximately 75 per cent of NHS Employees joining the scheme on that date.
  • Older doctors are protected from these changes. Pension scheme members who were within 10 years of their National Pension Age (NPA) on 1st April 2012 are fully protected from the 2015 NHSPS and remain on the older scheme.
  • Younger Doctors, which is to say doctors who were more than 13.5 years from their NPA on 1st April 2012, or who joined the scheme from 1st April 2015, enjoy no such protection from the 2015 NHSPS.
  • Should the Government appeal to the Supreme Court and that appeal fails we expect the Government to agree that the 2015 NHSPS unlawfully discriminates against its younger members and that they will take steps to remedy this to ensure that no BMA members are adversely impacted.

About the British Medical Association:

The BMA is a trade union 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.

For further information please contact:

British Medical Association, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JP
Telephone: 020 7383 6448 
Email: [email protected]
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