UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced a pay-out payment of £60,000 for families of NHS and social care frontline workers who die due to Coronavirus.
The insurance will cover staff who provide hands-on personal care for people who contracted coronavirus or work in an environment which has a high risk of the virus.
Hancock said, “Families of staff who die from coronavirus in the course of their essential frontline work will receive a £60,000 payment.” He further added, “Of course, nothing replaces the loss of a loved one, but we want to do everything we can to support families who are dealing with this grief.”
This will cover full-time, part-time or locum NHS and public health workers, including GPs, dentists, retired staff and second and final year students taking up paid frontline roles.
Within social care, the scheme will cover employees of publicly funded care homes, home care, directly employed carers including personal assistants and frontline child and family social workers also including cleaners and porters who continue to carry out vital duties in care environments. This scheme extends to all NHS frontline professionals’ whichever country they come from.
Calling this “long overdue” announcement with “some immediate financial relief,” British Medical Association says, “it might not go far enough.” They added, “It could leave families bereft of longer-term financial security, particularly if their loved one was not a current member of the NHS pension scheme or had only recently joined the scheme.”
As the number of health workers losing lives from Covid-19 continues to rise, the doctors’ union had persistently requested the Government to provide all NHS staff with full death in service benefits regardless of whether they are a member of the NHS Pension Scheme or not.
While the details are yet to be revealed, Dr. Vishal Sharma, BMA pensions committee chair, said, “Losing a loved one during these horrific times will be difficult enough for families, with the added pressure of losing what may be their main source of income, leaving them unsure of what the future holds.”
He added, “Whilst this single payment may seem a sizeable sum, it comes nowhere near compensating families for the lifetime income their loved one may have earned if they had not died prematurely, fighting this crisis on the frontline. This is particularly true for young or recently qualified staff.”
The number of NHS staff that has already succumbed to Covid-19 is close to 100-mark and amongst them, the ratio of Black and Asian Minority Ethnic Community is quite high. This is some ray of hope for immigrant doctors who despite working in the frontline are on backfoot when it comes to social care benefits despite paying high taxes.
They have to pay a health surcharge of £400 to access health service in the UK. “We believe that immigration health surcharges should be completely demolished. ILR or indefinite leave to remain a step before getting British Citizenship should be made easier for the immigrant doctors and should not be based on the type of work visa but it should be based in number of years the doctor has served in the NHS,” said Dr. Neha Sharma, a neo-natal consultant in the NHS who has been campaigning for a level-playing field for immigrant doctors through her organisation Association of Overseas Doctors in the UK.
British Medical Association and BAPIO, an organisation representing Indian Physicians in the UK put had pressure on the government. Recently Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the government is “reviewing” the surcharge.
Due to the high demand for health professionals in the UK the Home Office at no cost, extended the visas of who were running out of their visas in March. Dr. Neha Sharma though feels it’s a half-baked move as free visa extension should happen for all those working at the frontline despite them running out after March. In addition, the health professionals should not have to go through a long, tedious and expensive visa process.
Dr. Amit Gupta of Oxford University Hospital NHS Trust said, “Doctors pay an NHS surcharge to come and serve the NHS, and pay further exorbitant fees to extend visas. So, the sweeping visa extension is welcome, but it leaves us in no doubt that the existing system is driven by an anti-immigrant sentiment couched in a sham of fairness and rules.”
Matt Hancock, UK health secretary recently in April 27 press briefing said, “We will continue to strive night and day to provide them with the support and protection they need and deserve to keep them safe as they work tirelessly to save lives.”
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