Coronavirus updates: Ministers accused of dragging feet over NHS death in service benefits

Doctors’ leaders have accused ministers of dragging their feet over calls for families of healthcare workers who lose their lives fighting coronavirus to be financially supported.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is calling for all healthcare staff to receive the full death in service benefits under the NHS pension scheme – regardless of whether or not they are members of the scheme.

The doctors’ trade union said that it has written twice to Chancellor Rishi Sunak raising the issue, but has yet to receive a reply.

In contrast, it said that the Scottish Government has now come forward with a commitment to ensure all staff were covered.

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA pensions committee chair, said: “This is particularly galling for the many doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who continue to put themselves at risk to protect and care for patients against this deadly virus, with the knowledge that their families will be provided no financial support if the worst should happen.

“This really is a shambolic, unacceptable and frankly shameful situation.

“To lose a father, wife, mother or husband is tragic enough, but to then face severe financial hardship because there is not adequate support available is absolutely dreadful.”

Around 90 frontline NHS workers are known to have died after contracting coronavirus – although the actual figure is likely to be higher.

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The BMA wants the death in service benefits to be extended to those staff who would not normally be covered by the existing arrangements.

This would include locum doctors, academic doctors, returning doctors, those who have been forced to opt out of the NHS pension scheme, and staff, such as medical students, who have not built up the required two years into their pension scheme to be eligible.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was currently considering the financial support for the families of those on the front line.

“The death of any NHS worker is a tragedy and the whole country recognises the bravery of nurses, doctors, social care workers and many others who put themselves at risk to save lives during this global outbreak,” a spokesman said.

“We are evaluating the existing financial support for families of those on the front line.”

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