The doctors’ trade union is asking government to ensure that financial protection is in place for the families of retired doctors returning to the NHS to help tackle the Covid-19 pandemic should the worst happen.
The BMA is also calling for an automatic extension to enhanced death in service cover for all frontline NHS staff who will be asked to go above and beyond over the coming weeks and months as the NHS faces unprecedented challenges.
Writing to Rishi Sunak, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, explained that the NHS Pension Scheme offers important benefits on death, but that these can vary depending on which scheme a healthcare professional is on.
Those who have opted out entirely therefore, are now faced with significantly reduced benefits compared to those who are active members – all at a time when healthcare workers are being exposed to a potentially lethal disease.
In the letter, Dr Nagpaul said: ‘Retired doctors returning to the NHS (who were members of the 1995 section of the NHS Pension Scheme) to provide public service at this time of national need cannot re-join the scheme so their families would not receive a death in service lump sum.
‘There are also issues for junior doctors and medical students that are being brought into premature working. As they are new joiners to the scheme, they will have less than two years’ experience and very little in the way of accrued pension to date.
‘Therefore, even if they were an active member in the NHS pensions scheme, not only is the amount payable upon death to their family extremely low but no partner or dependant’s pension is payable.
‘The BMA has long highlighted the issue of inadequate death in service cover for doctors and in particular the issue with locum GPs that has recently resulted in a high court challenge.
‘At present if a locum GP was to work regularly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but died on a Tuesday, they are also not eligible to receive the full death in service benefit. There are other circumstances where death in service cover is reduced or lacking.’
Commenting on the letter, Dr Nagpaul added: ‘Looking after our healthcare workers has never been more important, and that extends to making sure they and their families are protected, financially, if the worst happens.
‘This is not a time to be complacent. We know that some doctors have sadly died or developed significant illnesses as a result of this terrible disease, which is why every one of them, be they new to the NHS or returning from retirement, must have access to enhanced death in service cover.
‘Currently, retired doctors who were members of the 1995 section of the NHS Pension Scheme cannot re-join the scheme, meaning their family members will not receive a death in service lump sum, while junior doctors and medical students haven’t yet worked long enough to accrue proper benefits.
‘As a GP, I know that many of my locum colleagues are also facing difficulties if they die on a day they don’t happen to be working, causing a huge amount of anxiety and worry.
‘The BMA has repeatedly asked the Government for reassurances that adequate death in service cover is provided for all NHS staff, if necessary, under emergency measures. Now, as the world faces one of the toughest challenges in a generation, it is essential that this is enacted.’
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