Death in Service  

Scottish govt bows to pressure over NHS death benefits

Scottish govt bows to pressure over NHS death benefits

The Scottish government has agreed that all NHS staff providing frontline treatment to Covid-19 patients will receive full death benefits under the NHS pension scheme, including those returning on a temporary basis. 

Following pressure from the British Medical Association (BMA), the Scottish government announced this week (April 20) that it will extend enhanced death in service cover to all NHS workers.

But the UK government is yet to announce any such measures for NHS staff in England and Wales, despite lobbying from the British Medical Association.

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The Scottish government stated: “The Health secretary recognises how important the death in service benefit is to NHS staff, including bank nurses. 

“That is why we have agreed with the principal health service unions, including the BMA, RCN and Unison, that all staff affected by Covid-19 as a result of providing frontline treatment for Covid-19 patients will receive the full lump sum and survivor’s pension benefits available under the terms of the NHS pension scheme: this includes permanent and fixed-term staff who are not members of the pension scheme, NHS Bank and NHS Locum staff. 

“This will ensure parity between colleagues and provide reassurance for staff in these unprecedented times.”

The NHS Pension Scheme provides a tax-free lump sum payment equivalent to two times annual salary as well as pension benefits for six months to families of doctors who have died while being active members of the scheme.

But in normal circumstances, members who are no longer paying into the scheme face reduced benefits and retired doctors called back into service to tackle the coronavirus crisis will not be eligible for any payout.

The Scottish government's latest move will see these rules suspended for the time being so that all NHS workers will be treated the same way in regard to their pension benefits, regardless of whether they are temporary workers or not an active member of the scheme.

Alan Robertson, BMA Scotland representative to the BMA pensions committee, said: “It is only right that the dependants of all those who are putting themselves at risk on the front line should be entitled to the death in service benefits of the NHS pension scheme. 

“This is particularly true for those permanent or fixed-term staff who may be returning to work in the NHS, and those who may have left the scheme for whatever reason.

“While we accept that there were complicated issues to resolve, the principle itself is straightforward, and it is hard to think of a clearer or less ambiguous case that this is the right thing to do as all NHS staff go above and beyond what is asked of them. 

“Of course, we very much hope that this extra protection will never be needed given the circumstances it would be required in – but it is an important measure nonetheless. We will now await the details, as this has to work effectively for the peace of mind of all NHS staff and their families.”