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Doctors will sue government over pensions

BMA will support doctors in legal action over changes to NHS pension scheme

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

British Medical Association (BMA) solicitors have written to health secretary, Matt Hancock, to warn that it intends to take legal action on behalf of doctors who face huge financial losses as a result of being forced to join a revamped pension scheme with less valuable benefits.

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 December 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.

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 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.  

In line with the changes to the NHS Pension scheme, older 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 the 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. 

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.”

He 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.”

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