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Doctors “unlawfully losing out on fees exemption”

2 October 2008

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The General Medical Council (GMC) has been accused of unlawfully seeking to deprive thousands of doctors of an exemption from registration fees they have traditionally been allowed once they reach the age of 65.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said abolition of the exemption with no prior consultation could result in the GMC unfairly receiving an extra £11.7m in revenue each year at the expense of the doctors.

A QC for the BMA said the long-standing exemption, applied to those aged 65 and over, currently affects about 30,000 doctors, including more than 12,000 BMA members.

He told a High Court judge the GMC was attempting “to remove at a stroke – without proper consultation – an expectation of free registration which tens of thousands of doctors waited years for and paid good money to secure”.

The GMC says it has had to act to comply with European Union age discrimination laws concerning equal treatment in employment which prohibit unjustifiable age discrimination.

But the BMA is accusing it of acting unlawfully because it failed to consult with doctors before making its decision in May.

While trying to block the move at the High Court in London, Tim Kerr QC said there had been a long-standing arrangement allowing doctors aged 65 and over an exemption from the £390 annual retention fee (ARF) they would otherwise have to pay to remain on the GMC’s register.

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