DORSET medics have called on the county-wide £3 billion pension fund to cut fossil fuel-based investments from the scheme.

They say it will be good for the health of their patients and the planet – and might also result in better returns for 71,000 Dorset public sector pensioners in the scheme.

Those in charge of investment decisions for the Dorset County Pension Fund say it is already moving in the direction of more ethical investments and will review its strategies in the months to come.

Members of the pensions committee, which met at County Hall, Dorchester gave Drs Rebecca Smith and Ruth Arnold a sympathetic hearing, but were not able to commit to the 2021 timetable they wanted.

They had come to the committee with a petition signed by more than 100 doctors, nurses and other medical staff on behalf of Medact, an organisation which supports health workers to campaign against issues which damage health and deepen health inequalities.

Committee chair Cllr Andy Canning said the idea would now be built into the review process which looks at the spread of investments when members meet in the coming months: “This is an important step forward, in the past we haven’t looked at this at all,” he said.

The doctors said that there was growing evidence that fossil fuels were a major threat to human health and argued that dis-investment was the only tactic which the multinational companies listened to. They claimed that the Dorset fund has £141 million in investments linked to the sector which they asked to be moved elsewhere.

Nobody at the meeting was able to verify the figure but vice chairman Cllr Peter Wharf said he accepted the principle of the argument.

He told the committee that the fund had a duty to its pensioners but said he was keen to explore a balance of investments which would fulfil that duty and also help the environment.

Dr Smith said that the fossil fuel industry has a negative impact on health and global warming and the only tactic so far which had made them sit up and listen was investors pulling their money out: “Dis-investment has worked well and it sends a strong message that solutions have to be found,” she said.

Committee members heard that the fund already has some investment in renewables and was looking at a low carbon fund which cuts investment exposure to fossil fuels by 80 per cent.

Cllr Felicity Rice from the Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole council argued that dis-investment in sectors which relied on fossil fuels also made financial sense for the pension fund: “Putting the environmental issues aside if we are trying to make money for our fund perhaps we should be dis-investing anyway,” she said.

Fellow BCP member Cllr David Brown supported the idea and said he would be keen to see the fund invest more in alternative energy.