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BMA launches legal challenge over death-in-service benefits for locums

The BMA has legally challenged the Pensions Ombudsman over the rules around death-in-service benefits that mean the families of locum GPs do not receive payouts if they die on a day they are off work. 

GP leaders have argued the existing system is ‘not acceptable’ as it means locums have to ‘die at work, at your desk’ in order for their loved ones to access their NHS pension benefits.

Meanwhile, partners and salaried GPs are covered on a continuous basis, with their families able to access their NHS pension regardless of when they die.

The BMA is now taking the pensions investigating body to the High Court, hoping it will overturn Pensions Ombudsman’s decision and that GPs are entitled to death in service.

BMA sessional GPs subcommittee deputy chair Dr Krishan Aggarwal said: ‘Having pursued a claim for death in service benefits through the NHS Pensions internal disputes procedure and onto the Pensions Ombudsman, the BMA continues to challenge the application of rules on behalf of a widower of a former BMA member.’

He added: ‘Contracted GPs receive a full death-in-service benefit but if a Locum GP was to work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but died on a Tuesday, NHS Pensions state they were not in pensionable service at that time and therefore are not eligible to receive the full benefit.’

Dr Aggrawal referenced the case of a locum GP, who died in 2014, considered not to have ‘died in service’ because she had not been scheduled to work on the day of her death.

NHS Business Services Authority declined to comment as this is ‘an on-going legal case’.

National Association of Sessional GPs chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse said: ‘It’s a crazy thing working as a GP locum. For example, if I did a surgery this morning in a practice, had another surgery booked tomorrow morning in another practice and were doing a surgery this afternoon, if I went home and on my way home I died in a car crash, my family wouldn’t get the death-in-service payments.

‘I’m still paying the same pensions as a salaried GP or a partner but they’re allowed to die 24/7, whenever they want to. It doesn’t matter because their family will get about a £200,000 death payment except for locums who don’t get that payment.’

He added: ‘With this new annualisation system, which annualises work for 365 days a year if we don’t work every single day, yet if we die on the way home we miss out so we’re getting the worst of both world.’