If the worst should happen, healthcare professionals deserve to know their families will be looked after
Posters in support of the NHS in the windows of a college opposite St Thomas' Hospital in London | PA Images
Our vital workers are putting their lives at risk on the frontline against coronavirus. A compensation scheme would ensure their loved ones have financial support if they die from the virus.
We are all stunned at the devastation that Covid-19 is wreaking on our society, our way of life and those living within its current limitations. And we are all also in awe of the incredible bravery and commitment being shown by front-line healthcare and other key workers during a time for which no individual could have been prepared.
Most of the lives that we have lost in the last few weeks due to coronavirus have been extremely unfortunate cases of people being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But those doctors, nurses, porters, ambulance staff, social care workers and teachers — all those walking in and out of potentially highly-infected spaces daily, putting themselves on the front line, ready to risk their own life for the next person they see — are placing themselves in harm’s way for the good of us all.
These incredible people deserve to know that, when they leave their homes on the way to their shifts, the Government has their back.
So this week, I launched a petition via Change.org calling on the Government to create a Coronavirus Compensation Scheme to provide the same level of support to key workers, on the frontline of this battle, that our Armed Forces receive. Recognising the danger that people face, and providing them and those around them with a safety net, in case the absolute worst happens to them in the call of duty, should be part of the social contract. We owe it to them.
The idea came to me after I was contacted by a radiographer anonymously. They work in a hospital, as does their partner. They have a 9-year-old daughter and no close family. They asked for this as they were worried about what would happen to their daughter if they both succumbed. There are quiet rumblings of some professionals purposefully staying at home for fear of not being protected at work, worrying what would happen to them and to their families if they did go in.
I don’t blame them. On top of the increased exposure, given the issues with getting adequate PPE and testing rolled out, you can see why people are scared. The very least we could do is to give them a full package that gives them some peace of mind.
When I launched the petition, which now has over 5,000 signatures, there were no known fatalities in the medical profession as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. Sadly that is no longer the case. As the crisis progresses the number will rise, as will the number of frontline professions affected. In addition to the petition, myself and 49 other MPs from across the political spectrum called on the prime minister to implement this change.
Mirroring the Armed Forces Scheme, we are calling for families to receive:
- A lump sum
- A guaranteed income for their family
- Child payments to eligible children under 18
And, given the extraordinary nature of the crisis, it should help with funeral costs too.
This would be in addition to their pension benefits; the death-in-service benefit for NHS workers doesn’t cover them all, notably those returning from retirement or locums. And what about other professions not covered by these benefits? What about the social care workers who we’re asking to not abandon our elderly for fear of their lives, or the teachers in special schools who are struggling to maintain social distancing without protection? They all deserve to know they’d be covered if the worst happens.
This is a difficult subject to think about, and what I want most of all is that no one would ever have need of this. So let’s implement this scheme now, and then work doubly hard to reduce the numbers of people who would ever need to use it.
Layla Moran is Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon.