‘Actions, not gestures’: BMA demands full death in service benefits for doctors

by BMA media team Press release from the BMA.
Location: UK
Published: Wednesday 22 April 2020

The families of doctors putting their lives on the line in the fight against Covid-19 risk being left without desperately-needed financial support should the worst happen because of failure by the Westminster Government to ensure proper death in service cover for all staff during the pandemic, the BMA says today.

As the number of health workers to tragically die from COVID-19 continues to rise, the doctors’ union has written to the Westminster Government1 to urge that all NHS staff are given full death in service benefits regardless of whether they are a member of the NHS Pension Scheme or not.

The Scottish Government has already announced a commitment to providing a comprehensive death in service package for all NHS workers imminently, and the BMA is demanding that full protections are put in place in the other UK nations.

Under current rules, the families of returning doctors, medical students and newly-qualified doctors, locum doctors and those who have opted out of the pension scheme all receive no – or a considerably reduced – benefit should they die while trying to save the lives of others.

For locums specifically, this means if they die on a day they are not scheduled to work, even though they may have contracted COVID-19 while treating COVOD-positive patients, their families are not entitled to full benefits.

The BMA has been persistently lobbying2 on this issue since the very start of this outbreak and the latest demand comes amid growing anguish among healthcare workers at the lack of availability of personal protective equipment and difficulty accessing testing for the illness.

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA pensions committee chair, said:
“Doctors and all healthcare workers are going above and beyond to fight this crisis on the frontline, and as we have tragically seen over recent weeks, many are now losing their lives as they strive to save others.

“PPE shortages and poor access to testing is already taking its emotional toll on doctors, with just under half reporting anxiety, depression and burnout3, and so it is completely unacceptable that many will have the added emotional weight of knowing that their loved ones may not be looked after should the very worst happen.

“Losing a loved one during these horrific times will be difficult enough for families, without the added pressure of losing what may be their main source of income, leaving them unsure of what the future holds. It is only right and proper that the Government offers full and adequate protection to doctors risking their lives for their patients.

“The BMA has made clear since the start of the outbreak that the Government needs to give a simple guarantee to all healthcare workers – including those young and old who have answered the call to step up to the workforce during this time – that their families will be looked after should they die. The BMA demands that this procrastination ends now.

“Scotland has begun offering these reassurances and Westminster must follow.

“We see Westminster politicians clapping every Thursday and commending the efforts of our frontline workers. While the public display is welcome, it’s time for the Government to back up their gestures with definitive action.”



Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. See full letter.
  2. Read the BMA’s previous letter to the Chancellor here.
  3. BMA wellbeing survey here.
  4. Read more about death in service benefits here.

For media enquiries please email [email protected] or call 020 7383 6448