Following the statement yesterday from Matt Hancock MP, the Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) has written to the Health & Social Care Secretary, requesting that he confirm the arrangement he announced also applies to community pharmacists.
The families of health and care workers on the frontline in England will benefit from a new life assurance scheme during the pandemic, developed after discussions with health and social care unions.
The scheme recognises the increased risk faced by staff during the crisis and will cover coronavirus related deaths of workers in frontline health and adult and children’s social care roles during the outbreak. It will cover staff who provide hands-on personal care for people who have contracted coronavirus or work in health or care settings where the virus is present.
Bereaved family members will receive a £60,000 lump sum worth roughly twice the average pensionable pay for NHS staff, with the cost met by the government.
The announcement does not specifically mention community pharmacists.
In a letter addressed to the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, Chairman of the Pharmacist Defence Association Mark Koziol made the following statement:
“We welcome your announcement yesterday that as NHS workers and carers put their lives on the line in the fight against COVID19, their families should not need to have the added worry of financial stress if their loved ones die in the line of duty. Such an initiative, similar to the scheme that is in place for the families of our military, is the recognition that this dreadful virus is cutting short lives of so many who are fulfilling their duty and vocation even though the risks are high to themselves and their families.
“Whilst we understand that the announcement has yet to have much detail we urge you to make it clear as a matter of urgency that such a scheme, will include those who are working on the front line in community pharmacy and primary care. The PDA is the largest organisation representing pharmacists across all sectors hospital, community and primary care with 31,000 members.
“Those members working in hospitals and directly employed by the NHS will already have some relief knowing that your scheme will cover them. However, our members who are doing equally important work especially in community pharmacy will wake to the headlines today with less certainty. Pharmacists, whether as locums or employed by the private sector pharmacy contractors, are working on the front line in a greater way than ever before. As more GP surgeries close their doors to walk-in patients with pre-screened bookings only, community pharmacy has become the front line dealing with the public, many of whom will still present with symptoms of COVID19.
“We are already aware that 3 members of our pharmacy family have died as a result of COVID19, 2 of whom worked in community pharmacy. Their families and others who sadly may also fall to this virus, deserve to know that they are valued and recognised by the government as much as their colleagues directly employed by the NHS. Community pharmacy activity is 95-98% funded by the NHS, so it would be utterly perverse and wrong if pharmacists and their teams, at direct risk of contracting this virus in their work, were not supported by the NHS Life Assurance scheme.
“Whilst we understand that you and your officials will be working on the details in coming days, we look forward to the urgent clarification that this scheme will cover all those workers on the front line, whether or not they are directly employed by the NHS.”