Life assurance scheme for frontline staff may not go far enough, BMA says

The life assurance scheme for families of frontline NHS and social care workers who die with coronavirus may not go far enough, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said families of staff who die from the disease in the course of their duties will receive a £60,000 payment.

The BMA said the sum may provide some immediate financial relief but it could leave families bereft of longer-term financial security.

Mr Hancock, who said 82 NHS workers and 16 social care staff had died so far, told the Downing Street press briefing on Monday that he feels “a deep personal sense of duty that we must care for their loved ones”.

He said: “Today, I am able to announce that the Government is setting up a life assurance scheme for NHS and social care frontline colleagues.

“Families of staff who die from coronavirus in the course of their essential frontline work will receive a £60,000 payment.

“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.”

He added: “As a Government, we are looking closely at other professions that work on the frontline against coronavirus, who also do not have access to such schemes, to see where this may be required.”

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA pensions committee chair, said: “Losing a loved one during these horrific times will be difficult enough for families, without the added pressure of losing what may be their main source of income, leaving them unsure of what the future holds.

“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.”

He said the BMA will examine the detail of the scheme closely.

Mr Hancock was asked if there was anything in the scheme that would waive the rights of families to sue the NHS if they felt their deceased loved one had not been properly protected in the absence of PPE, and he said: “No.”

Shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “Now the Government must finally get a grip over PPE supplies so that NHS and care staff aren’t putting their lives on the line to do their job and protect the rest of us.”

Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The RCN and other health unions fought for this government announcement and we will examine the detail closely.

“It must be easily accessed, open to those in social care and primary care too and be paid promptly – no family should face a lengthy or complex process.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Until now, the relatives of any low-paid health worker who died and had opted out of the NHS pension scheme would’ve received nothing.

“Nor would the families of care workers on precarious contracts. Thankfully now that wrong has been put right.

“All the money in the world can’t replace a loved one. Nor can it lessen the deep grief relatives are experiencing.

“But providing financial security for the families of all those who’ve paid the ultimate price for their professionalism and dedication is the very least we can do.”

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