Pharmacy chiefs have called on the Government to be flexible when it comes to the Covid life assurance coverage, in light of rising cases across the country.
Last week (31 March), the Government confirmed that families of pharmacy staff who contract Covid at work and then die are no longer entitled to the £60,000 compensation which was put in place at the start of the pandemic to help families of NHS staff who died as a result of the pandemic.
The scheme, which was initially launched in April 2020 when NHS staff had less access to PPE and a vaccine had not yet been distributed, is being wound down as part of the lifting of Covid-19 measures.
However, Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), told The Pharmacist yesterday (5 April) that despite the lifting of Covid restrictions, the risk of catching Covid is ‘very much still there’ for front line staff.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) more than 4.1 million people were testing positive for Covid on any given day over the week to March 26, which is equivalent to one in 13 being infected.
‘We understand that schemes like this cannot be in place forever,’ Ms Hannbeck explained.
‘But the Government does need to be flexible and willing to put the scheme back in place if a more dangerous variant begins to circulate or the death rate begins to increase.’
Pharmacists were not initially covered as standard under the scheme, after the Government said families of community pharmacy staff would only qualify for the payment in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
But, health secretary Matt Hancock later announced on Twitter that he was ‘glad to be able to confirm’ that community pharmacists would be covered by the scheme.
Government must still pay on ‘discretionary’ basis
Paul Day, director of the Pharmacists’ Defense Association (PDA) said that the Government must still distribute money to pharmacy team
’s’ families if they die after contracting Covid while at work in a pharmacy.
‘I understand why the scheme is coming to a close like how other restrictions are being lifted,’ he said.
‘However, if a pharmacist was to die and their family came to us asking for help we would push the Government to provide the financial cover on a discretionary basis – at least while we are still sat in this phase of the pandemic where it is still a threat,’ he added.
Just over six months after the scheme was launched, 228 families of health and social care staff who died after contracting Covid-19 at work have had their application for the £60,000 payment under the Government’s life assurance scheme approved.
Families of pharmacists who died after contracting Covid-19 at work when the scheme was still open – up until 31 March 2022 – have until 31 March 2023 to apply for the payment.