The government has bowed to pressure from doctors’ unions and introduced a life assurance scheme, whereby families of frontline health and social care workers will receive a £60,000 lump sum payment upon their death.
The department of Health and Social Care announced yesterday afternoon (April 27), that it will introduce a life assurance scheme for health and social care workers who die from covid-19 while working on the frontline.
Under the scheme, their dependants will receive a £60,000 lump sum, worth roughly twice the average pensionable pay for NHS staff, with the cost met by the government.
This will cover full, 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.
The scheme is operating on a temporary basis and will only provide death in service benefits for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary, said: “Nothing can make up for the tragic loss of a loved one during this pandemic. We owe a huge debt to those who die in service to our nation and are doing everything we can to protect them.
“Financial worries should be the last thing on the minds of their families so in recognition of these unprecedented circumstances we are expanding financial protection to NHS and social care workers delivering publicly funded care on the frontline.
“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.”
But the British Medical Association, who has been lobbying for death in service benefits for NHS workers, said while the scheme will provide some immediate financial relief, 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.
Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA pensions committee chair, said: “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 hadn’t died prematurely, fighting this crisis on the frontline. This is particularly true for young or recently qualified staff.
“Increasing numbers of families are dealing with the loss of a loved one as the death toll for front line workers rises, they should not also face a future without financial security. The BMA will be examining closely the detail of the government’s life assurance scheme.”
Last week (April 22), the Scottish government agreed that all NHS staff providing frontline treatment to covid-19 patients would receive full death benefits under the NHS pension scheme, including those returning on a temporary basis.