- Global Pharma News & Resources

Unlawful changes to doctors’ pensions scrapped after BMA court victory

Controversial changes to pensions rules granting the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care the power to suspend doctors’ pensions payments have been thrown out by the High Court following a judicial review brought by the BMA. 

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.

Most, if not all, public sector pension schemes contain provisions for the suspension of a person’s benefits but only after the point of conviction. Yet, if the changes were to be allowed to subsist, NHS professionals would be the only public sector workers to have the threat of forfeiture of their pension hanging over them at any time from charge.

However, in a judgment handed down today, the High Court agreed with our argument that the new 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).

In her judgment, the Hon. Mrs Justice Andrews highlighted that the Government had drawn no distinction between someone charged with a crime and someone convicted of a crime despite the fundamental principle in law being that ‘every defendant to a criminal charge, however serious, and however compelling the evidence against him may appear, is presumed innocent until proved guilty to the criminal standard’.

Commenting on the judgment, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“Today’s judgment is a victory for our members and for all NHS professionals across England and Wales who could have been unlawfully deprived of their pensions benefits had these rules remained in place. 

“We could not allow the Government to simply disregard the fundamental principle that a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. These rules assume guilt from the outset with little regard for the impact on a doctor’s well-being, career or personal life. 

“From the evidence presented it is clear the Government made no assessment, or worse just disregarded, the potential effect this rule change would have on those who are retired and already drawing on their pensions and those who are older, ill or disabled. 

“We welcome today’s judgment and on behalf of our members we are glad that these regulations, which should never had been approved in the first place, will now be struck from the statute book.” 

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.

Editor Details

  • Company:
    • The British Medical Association (BMA)
  • Name:
    • The British Medical Association (BMA)
Last Updated: 20-Jan-2020