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BMA has failed the bereaved spouses of GPs

I read with interest the articles in the national press, taken from items covered in Pulse, relating to the BMA and its failure to negotiate effectively on behalf of its members.

My late husband Dr Trevor Oldham was a GP and a long-time member of the BMA and throughout his career we were often disgusted at the lack of negotiation on the members' behalf. What we did not realise then was it also showed a contemptible lack of interest and no representation for the bereaved spouses of late members.

My husband was a regular contributor to Pulse, reviewing articles for the clinical section, and was the subject of a two-page article in the 6 May 2000 edition, which described his illness and role reversal in becoming a patient. He died suddenly in June 2006, aged 53, after a heart attack as a result of his illness.

After his death I was horrified to discover the modest NHS pension I would receive would be terminated in the event that I remarried or cohabited. I felt this to be unfair given that it was funded from my late husband's contributions. I also felt it was discriminatory and degrading.

I feel strongly that this restriction is unjust. Losing a desperately loved partner is pain enough, without the indignity of knowing that should I ever again be fortunate enough to meet a new partner, I would no longer be able to support myself despite my late husband's service and the contributions he made to provide for me.

I was informed by the NHS trust after the last pension review in April 2008 that this rule was being withdrawn in respect of all newly bereaved spouses, but that this was not retrospective and would not be extended to existing pension holders. I cannot see the justification for this exclusion.

Investigations via my local MEP Mark Isherwood indicated those of us in this situation had not been considered in the relevant negotiations and there was no representation on our behalf. Although there was some suggestion that this was because of cost, no statistics are available as to how many individuals have been affected, how much it would have cost or how this has been justified.

It must also be a consideration that the existing bereaved spouses are likely to have supported GP husbands or wives through some very heavy workloads that do not apply to today's contracts. In those days, GPs' wives and husbands were the people at the end of the phone after the surgery closed at weekends and evenings.

I have written to the then- health secretary Alan Johnson and to shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley - with no success. But I feel much of the responsibility for this sorry state of affairs lies with the BMA and its complete lack of commitment to the majority of its members.

From Mrs JH Oldham, Wrexham, Lancashire

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