UK - The British Medical Association (BMA) has won a high court case against the UK government's decision to limit the amount retiring doctors could receive in their NHS pensions.

The BMA brought the case against the government after the former secretary of state for health, Patricia Hewitt, decided to limit the pensions of general practitioners (GPs) contrary to the agreed calculation set out in the doctors' contract.

GPs pensions are calculated using a "dynamising factor" which is a method designed to bring the value of pension contributions made by doctors in previous years to a present day value.

However, in December 2006 the then health minister Lord Waring announced the cap on the dynamising factor would be reduced to 48% and would be applied retrospectively to calculations relating to contributions for 2004-06, which the BMA claimed would "seriously disadvantage GPs nearing retirement and those already retired".

As a result, in June 2007 the BMA confirmed it had been given permission to seek a judicial review of the decision to cap the factor, approved by Hewitt, although at the time the organisation admitted the case was unlikely to be resolved by the end of the year.

But the BMA claims Mr Justice Mitting ruled in the High Court last week the government had "behaved unlawfully" by introducing a retrospective limit, and awarded the BMA, represented by the law firm Irwin Mitchell, legal costs.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of BMA Council, said: "We are delighted that the BMA has been vindicated in its decision to challenge the government on the retrospective capping of GPs' pensions."

"We now look to the government to give GPs the pensions they have worked and paid for and to honour the agreement reached with the BMA during contract negotiations," he added.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said: "The department is very disappointed by this judgement. We are pleased to have been granted leave to appeal and will be considering the judgement carefully before responding."

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