COVID-19: BMA priorities

The BMA is working tirelessly to campaign for doctors on sufficient PPE provision, testing for health workers, expanding the workforce and death in service.
Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 13 May 2020

Our number one priority at this moment of national emergency is to ensure that doctors are able to go about their vital work and treat patients in the knowledge that they are as safe and supported as possible.

Our four main priorities across the UK are PPE provision, testing for health workers, expanding the workforce and death in service.



If doctors are to treat patients effectively and drive the national fightback against COVID-19, then they must be protected from the virus as they carry out their duties.

The continued failure of the Government to provide an adequate supply of PPE (personal protective equipment) to healthcare workers is putting doctors and patients alike at risk of serious illness and even of death.

BMA action

Our chair of council Dr Chaand Nagpaul has been making this point forcibly in the past two weeks.


Testing for healthcare workers

On Friday 27 March the Government announced that healthcare workers who are self-isolating will start to be tested for COVID-19 in the coming days, beginning with healthcare workers in critical care, emergency departments and ambulance services.

It is nonsensical that our health service is being denied vital frontline staff at its hour of greatest need.

This development was long overdue and comes on the back of two weeks of forceful campaigning by the BMA.

BMA action

During this time the BMA loudly and consistently campaigned for priority testing plans to be brought forward.


Expanding the workforce

Retired doctors

  • Through close engagement with the Department of Health and Social Care, we have helped to ensure that all retired members returning to work will receive NHS indemnity automatically and free of charge.
  • We have worked constructively with medical defence organisations to make sure that professional cover is available to the 15,000 doctors requested to return.
  • We have produced guidance for doctors returning to work highlighting it is imperative that their health and wellbeing should not be endangered as a result of them returning to work.
  • We are seeking to gain clarity about the arrangements which will apply to retired doctors who temporarily return to work.

Medical students

  • We have worked with relevant organisations to ensure that medical students stepping into any role are absolutely clear on what duties they can be expected to perform in order to avoid the risk of being asked to act beyond their level of competency. 
  • We have negotiated and produced guidance for medical students on taking on contracts of employment in the NHS due to COVID-19 and guidance on early provisional registration for final year students.


Death in service protection

Greater clarity and support to extend death in service cover is needed from the Government for all healthcare workers, to give them peace of mind for their families and loved ones, should the worst happen.

BMA action

  • The BMA wrote to the chancellor calling for additional provision to ensure that the dependants of NHS staff receive their full death in service entitlement, irrespective of whether they are an active member of the NHS pension scheme.
  • To ensure medical students, junior colleagues and lower paid NHS staff’s families receive a fair entitlement, we are also calling for the introduction of a minimum amount payable if an NHS worker dies in service.
  • We wrote to the home secretary, Priti Patel, calling for provision to ensure that the dependants of international doctors are automatically granted indefinite leave to remain if the doctor dies in service.
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