Call to extend death-in-service benefits amid COVID-19 crisis

by Neil Hallows

The families of all doctors putting their lives at risk in the fight against COVID-19 should be given proper financial support if their loved ones die, the BMA has said.

Location: UK
Published: Wednesday 22 April 2020
BMA in the news Illustration

It has written to the Government to urge the extension of full death-in-service benefits to all doctors and other NHS workers.

Under current rules, returning doctors, medical students, locums, those newly qualified and those who have opted out of the pension scheme will receive no or reduced benefits if they die when in the service of saving the lives of others.

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

The demand from the BMA follows a recent letter to the chancellor ago and comes amid growing anguish among healthcare workers at the lack of availability of PPE (personal protective equipment) and difficulty accessing testing for the illness.

The BMA understands the Government in Scotland is set to announce a death-in-service package for all NHS workers imminently and is demanding full protections are put in place in the other UK nations.


Emotional toll

BMA pensions committee chair Vishal Sharma (pictured above) said: 'Doctors and all healthcare workers are going above and beyond to fight this crisis on the front line, 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 burnout, 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.'

Read the letter

Read BMA Scottish consultants committee deputy chair Alan Robertson's update on death in service