It is not unfair that doctors aged over 65 will now have to pay the £390 General Medical Council registration fee, the High Court has ruled.
The British Medical Association had claimed that ending free registration after 38 years was “conspicuously unfair and an abuse of power” because medical practitioners had not been properly consulted.
But Mr Justice Burnett, sitting in London, ruled the GMC had to end the scheme to comply with new European Union age discrimination laws.
The BMA said that 31,000 of the 249,000 doctors on the register benefit from not having to pay, including more than 12,000 BMA members.
It said abolition might result in the GMC unfairly receiving an extra £11.7m in revenue each year at the expense of medical practitioners.
Since the 1970s, the scheme had operated on the basis that the exemption was subsidised by younger doctors, who would then benefit themselves when they reached 65.
But the GMC successfully argued that it had no choice but to abolish the exemption because it had received legal advice that it breached an EU Directive on equal treatment in employment which prohibited unjustifiable age discrimination.
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“As a person who has been registered with the GMC for 50 years, I feel that a gross injustice has been done to retired doctors by the GMC in starting to charge £390 per annum to stay on the register. If the concept, that an advantage to the older person is a direct disavantage to the younger, is applied generally, then the social basis of our society is being attacked. Therefore we would have to abolish the state retirement pension, free travel, free television licence and so on. The EU directive could not, in all fairness and justice, have possibly intended that an end be brought to protection of the older person. Retired doctors already suffer discrimination in the course of their continuing medical education. Unlike doctors in employment, they are unable to claim expenses for membership of royal colleges, the BMA and other medical organisations, or for subsistence and travel to medical conferences. Surely they have a right and a duty to keep abreast of medical developments. In order to do so they must pay out of their own pocket. Furthermore, the Inland Revenue is prejudiced in favour of those in employment , but for the retired, will make no allowances for medical education, or for the expense involved in writing on medical matters. The GMC should be on the side of the doctors and not hide behind the skirts of the legal profession” – Ruairí Ó Bléine
“The ruling is a disgrace to the GMC and to legalists who blatantly disregard the spirit of the legislation framed to protect the elderly.” – Ruairí Ó Bléine, N Ireland