Make Frontline care and NHS staff eligible for death in service and funeral payments

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP and Frontline NHS workers.

By Bill Heaney

Frontline NHS workers and other care workers should be eligible for the death in service scheme and the Government pay for all the funerals of key workers who die trying to protect others from Covid 19, according to the LibDems. 

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton has launched their plan for supporting frontline NHS and care workers, which includes a commitment to ensuring every NHS and care worker is eligible for the death in service scheme.

As well as proposing that the Government pay for all the funerals of key workers who die trying to protect others from Covid 19. 

The Scottish government has agreed that all NHS staff providing frontline treatment to Covid-19 patients will receive full death benefits. However, this does not apply to non-frontline workers or to workers in the care sector, including the hundreds who work for the Council in West Dunbartonshire.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “It is right that all returning staff in our NHS are eligible for the death in service scheme but the scheme is significantly less generous than that offered by the military. 

“Similarly it is important to acknowledge that the battle against Covid-19 is not just taking place in hospitals. The Scottish Government must ensure that care staff are not treated as second class citizens once again.

“Expanding the death in service scheme to cover these workers as well as paying for the funerals of all key workers who die trying to protect others from this virus, would be appropriate in the circumstances and form an aspect of the recognition for their selfless hard work and sacrifice.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat five-point plan is as follows:

1: Personal protection kit now. We need to ensure frontline workers are protected. Right now health workers are concerned that stocks of personal protective equipment might run out, while residential and home care staff feel they are the last in line to get supplies. The Scottish Government need to guarantee the supply chain for our hospitals and social care workers to ensure that they can tackle each shift with all the fresh kit they need.

2: Mental health support for frontline staff. In January, before the virus even hit, research from the Scottish Liberal Democrats showed 45 million days have been lost in the NHS because of staff mental ill health. The stress was always bad, but it is close to unbearable for those workers facing trauma and death every day. A new, dedicated staff mental health and trauma helpline for frontline workers, which gets them straight to a trauma-trained counsellor is needed.

3: Frontline service reward. Military service personnel receive a deployment allowance of £29 per day on active duty in addition to their normal pay. We believe the same principle should apply to NHS and care staff putting themselves in harm’s way during the coronavirus epidemic. Care workers in particular aren’t paid enough to begin with, so it’s time we recognise the efforts of these workers in financial terms.

4: Bereavement and funeral support. We need to recognise the sacrifice that some workers might end up making. The NHS has a “death in service” scheme – but it’s not as generous as the military’s and many workers on the coronavirus frontline aren’t eligible. Ministers must ensure every NHS and care worker becomes eligible so they know their families will be supported. Ministers should also agree to pay for all the funerals of key workers who die trying to protect others from Covid 19. 

5: A Coronavirus Service Medal. Workers on the coronavirus frontline should get recognition for the risks they have faced, with a new “Coronavirus Service Medal”. They are playing a major role to keep our country safe and it should be properly and formally recognised.

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