Swine flu czar in death-in-service plea

PCTs should look to hire locum GPs on continuous contracts of at least three months to ensure they receive death in service cover, England's director for flu resilience has said.

In a letter to PCTs this month, Ian Dalton called for the contracts to be issued quickly to locums in preparation for the second wave of swine flu expected this autumn.

The announcement comes after the BMA raised concerns that the dependants of locum GPs would not be fully protected should the locum die of swine flu while between contracts.

In the letter, Mr Dalton says engaging locums on a continuous contract would afford them type 2 (assistant) practitioner status under the NHS Pension Scheme Regulations rather than locum practitioner status.

This would give locums continuous death-in-service cover under the NHS pension scheme and would cover them under the NHS injury benefits scheme.

It is possible for GMS, PMS and APMS contractors to employ locums on this basis.

The BMA says PCTs could use a contract that makes the locum GP a salaried GP or under a deal similar to a maternity locum cover arrangement.

For both types of contract, the GP need not be engaged in work for a full week. However, in order to be eligible for death in service payments the contract must be continuous.

But Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chairman of the National Association of Sessional GPs, suggested the contracts may be more useful in later pandemics. 'As far as I know, no one has died directly from swine flu.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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