Doctors consider appeal against awards block
29 November 2012
Doctors leaders are considering appealing against a high court ruling against reinstating CEAs (clinical excellence awards) in Northern Ireland.
BMA Northern Ireland lost a legal challenge of the decision to suspend CEAs — a move implemented by former health, social services and public safety minister Michael McGimpsey.
The BMA is considering last week’s judgement and considering the question of an appeal. The association is also considering asking the Equality Commission to look at the whole matter.
Doctors leaders brought high court proceedings over the decision not to award new CEAs in 2010/11.
BMA Northern Ireland claimed the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety was wrong to treat the awards as payment and to subject them to a public sector pay freeze.
However, Mr Justice Treacy dismissed the judicial review challenge, ruling that the characterisation of the awards was within the department’s discretion.
Sixty award applications
He said: ‘I find that CEAs share enough of the characteristics of payment for it to be reasonable for the respondent to treat them as such.’
More than 60 consultants had submitted applications for higher awards in the 2010/11 rounds.
Lawyers for the BMA claimed the decision not to issue any new CEAs failed to comply with statutory equality obligations.
They argued that a CEA was a pensionable monetary award that rewarded clinical excellence, and therefore not pay in the usual sense of the word.
However, the judge rejected all grounds of the challenge.
When he froze the CEA scheme, Mr McGimpsey told his Northern Ireland Assembly colleagues: ‘I took that decision in light of the government’s announcement of a two-year pay freeze for public sector workers who earn more than £21,000 per annum, the comprehensive spending review and the financial crisis faced by the health and social care sector as a result of budget cuts.
‘That means [the] money that would have gone to new CEAs can instead be redirected.'
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