Update on death in service

As highlighted in my previous blog, a key priority for the BMA during this pandemic has been ensuring proper death in service cover for the families of healthcare workers that die as a result of COVID-19.

We had received assurances from the Cabinet Secretary on the 19th April 2020 that this would be the case and I’m pleased to report the detail of the scheme backs up those initial principles.

It has been a very busy time over the past couple of weeks and I wish to pass on my thanks to the staff and representatives at BMA Scotland as well as the teams at Scottish Government and SPPA who have worked very hard to produce a scheme that delivers on the high level principles whilst addressing the usual mind-boggling level of complexity that comes along with anything to do with pensions. It was no easy task but we had a shared overall aim and I think have ended up in a place which everyone was content with.

We know that the NHS Pension Scheme already offers a good level of death in service cover for the vast majority of those currently contributing to the scheme (‘active’ members) – you can see the full details on our website.  Our key ask was always that those individuals who were not fully covered (or covered at reduced levels) due to either being out of the scheme, having only recently joined, working on the staff bank or as locums, or not in the scheme at all were covered at the same level as those active members of the scheme.  We were not seeking any additional payments, just fair treatment for all.

There were certain groups we were worried would be left uncovered – in particular GP locums, bank staff and those that had been forced out of the scheme due to the taxation issues that we’ve previously raised. These are obviously stressful times for many doctors, and this was a further concern which would have just added to the level of worry. I am really pleased to say that thanks to this Scottish Government scheme, all of these groups are now covered.

As I say the level of benefits are the same as for active members (and for simplicity they have used the 1995 section model to calculate these), so that means a lump sum on death of two times relevant salary as well as a short-term dependants’ allowance of 100% of the pensionable pay for six months followed by a long-term allowance.  This long-term allowance will be the result of a pretty complicated calculation – which I’ve included below.[1]

For obvious reasons we really hope the usage of this scheme is non-existent, but to have the peace of mind of that long-term security being in place should the worst happen is really important for all those working hard to look after patients during this crisis.

[1] [(the member’s average weekly gross income as and while being paid by the NHS during the COVID-19 outbreak annualised as an annual salary x 2/3 of notional service to age 60) / 80 ] +  [2/80ths of salary].  For those that have some existing scheme membership but are now inactive (or ‘deferred’) members then their benefits will be topped up to these levels.

Alan Robertson is the BMA Scotland rep to the BMA Pensions Committee, and deputy chair of the Scottish Consultants Committee

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