The legal action comes after the Government was denied permission to appeal a Court of Appeal decision that similar pension policy changes that applied to firefighters and judges were unlawful age discrimination.

According to the BMA, “at least a dozen” doctors are involved in the legal action, with many more expected to join.

The litigation is in relation to changes to pension policies in 2015. According to the BMA, these changes follow the same principles that were applied to the judges and firefighters pensions that have since been found to be age discriminatory.

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.
— Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of council of the British Medical Association

The firefighters and judges cases

In December last year, the Court of Appeal ruled that the pension policies applied to firefighters and judges were age discriminatory.

The Government sought permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, but were informed last week that permission was denied. This marks the end of the litigation and the Government now faces a hefty bill to compensate those who lost out as a result of the changes.

The dispute in these cases had arisen in March 2015, after the defined benefit pension schemes that applied to judges and firefighters were closed. Transfers were made into a replacement scheme with transitional provisions put in place for older workers. These provisions allowed older judges and firefighters to remain members of the old schemes either until retirement or until the end of a period of tapered protection, dependent on their age. It was this that was found to be age discriminatory.

The implications for the public finances are potentially gargantuan. It is highly unlikely such a hit to could simply be absorbed by the Exchequer, so cuts in spending or increases in taxes will almost certainly be needed to fill this pensions black hole.
— Tom Selby, AJ Bell

The doctors’ pensions

The changes made to doctors pensions were very similar to those that were made to firefighters and judges pensions.

In 2015, two sections of the NHS Pension Scheme were closed. NHS staff were moved onto a newer 2015 scheme with less valuable retirement benefits.

Some older doctors were allowed to stay on the previous schemes until they either retired, or after a fixed transition period had elapsed.

The BMA alleges that the failure to allow younger doctors to benefit from these transitions constituted unlawful age discrimination and that the scheme must therefore be scrapped.