British Government in court for Judicial Review over cap on GPs’ pensions

A Judicial Review sought by the British Medical Association to challenge the government’s decision to cap the pensions of GPs will take place in the High Court, London, on Wednesday and Thursday this week (12th and 13th March 2008).

In 2006, Patricia Hewitt, the then Secretary of State for Health, decided to limit the pensions of family doctors despite agreement in the new GP contract on how pensions would be calculated*. Family doctors saw this as a breach of their agreement with ministers in 2003 and the BMA is challenging the lawfulness of the Health Secretary’s actions retrospectively to change the basis upon which GP pensions are calculated. Some have made decisions to retire on the basis of what they believed had been agreed.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of BMA Council, said: “There is a very important principle at stake which is that when the government makes agreements it should stick to them. GPs are angry about the imposed cap on their pensions because they feel they have kept their faith with the new contract and the government has broken theirs.

“We are very pleased that the court has allowed us to challenge the government on what we claim is an unjustified breach of the original agreement. The government’s decision is depriving doctors of the pension we believe they have a legal right to receive.”

He added: “Most GPs are self-employed. They pay both the employers’ and the employees’ contributions into the NHS Pension Scheme. The pensions they have accrued are in fact delayed pay resulting from a agreement between the government and the profession. For the government to say they cannot have the pension they have earned and paid for is a denial of their entitlement.”

Law firm Irwin Mitchell is representing the BMA and Richard Gordon QC and Maya Lester of Brick Court Chambers as Counsel.

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