Call to extend death-in-service payments

by Keith Cooper

Ministers are being urged to extend enhanced ‘death-in-service’ payments to the family members of doctors whose lives are lost in the fight against COVID-19.

Location: England
Published: Friday 20 March 2020

The Government should also extend life-assurance cover to all NHS workers (irrespective of pension scheme membership) as they take necessary risks caring for the increasing number of patients infected by the virus.

These are the calls being pressed again by the BMA in an effort to help doctors and their families in an already difficult environment.

BMA pensions committee chair Vish Sharma said it was ‘essential that all staff and their families are protected if the worst happens’.

‘We know from experiences worldwide that healthcare workers are not immune to the effects of COVID-19 and sadly some doctors have died or developed significant illness as a result of this disease,’ he added.

‘The BMA has repeatedly asked the Department of Health and Social Care for reassurances that adequate death-in-service cover is provided, if necessary under temporary emergency measures. To date we have not received that reassurance.’


Scheme membership

Death-in-service payments are a benefit of the NHS pension scheme.

They are however severely reduced for doctors who have opted out of the pension scheme because of the pensions tax or other reasons. Doctors who no longer pay into the pension scheme should seek independent financial advice, consider re-joining the scheme or purchase additional death in service or critical illness cover.

Retired doctors – who were members of the 1995 section of the NHS Pension Scheme – cannot rejoin the scheme so their families would not receive a death-in-service lump sum. Ministers are keen to draft retired doctors back into the service to help the fight against COVID-19.

Doctors who became foundation year 1s in August 2018 or August 2019 will not yet have the two years of service required for long-term benefits to be paid to their dependents.

Locum GPs still do not qualify for full death-in-service benefits if they, for example, worked Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but died on a Tuesday.

The BMA has long highlighted the issue of inadequate death-in-service cover for locum GPs, including a high court challenge.