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Pharmacy bodies’ anger at ‘perverse’ DH life assurance decision

PDA: Pharmacy teams had already been left “at the back of the queue for PPE and testing”
PDA: Pharmacy teams had already been left “at the back of the queue for PPE and testing”

Sector bodies have expressed outrage after the Department of Health (DH) said pharmacy teams in England are not automatically eligible for a new £60,000 life assurance payout.

The new life assurance scheme – under which the families of “eligible” frontline health and care staff in England who die as a result of COVID-19 will receive a lump sum of £60,000 – will only extend to pharmacists “in exceptional circumstances”, the DH told C+D yesterday (April 28).

Pharmacy bodies and pharmacists in England were left perplexed by this decision and are demanding clarity from the DH.

C+D has approached the DH for comment, as well as clarification on what the "exceptional circumstances" pharmacists must face to qualify for the scheme might entail.

“Very angry”

“We are very angry about pharmacists being excluded from the scheme,” Paul Day, director of the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) told C+D today (April 29).

The lack of automatic inclusion of community pharmacy teams in the scheme “really angered our members and the profession as a whole”, Mr Day said. He added that pharmacy teams had already been left “at the back of the queue among health workers for personal protective equipment and testing”.

“It’s a perverse decision to exclude community pharmacists when we all know that they are the absolute hub now for public health”, as many GP practices “have all but closed their doors”, Mr Day added.

“[A large] volume of patients, many of whom may be carrying the virus, are walking into pharmacies every day and our members are at risk,” he said.

The PDA – which said it is aware that at least three pharmacists have sadly died after becoming infected with COVID-19 – is considering “all options” on what action to take in response to the DH’s decision, Mr Day told C+D. This includes “legal and industrial action”, he added.

The organisation has also approached England's chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge about this issue. The PDA asked him to act on behalf of the profession in seeking an explanation from health secretary Matt Hancock over the DH’s decision to potentially exclude community pharmacists’ families from the scheme.

Mr Ridge said on Twitter that he has raised the issue "at the highest level".

Sign the petition asking the DH for life assurance for community pharmacy teams here.

“Sad, concerning and disappointing”

Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), told C+D that it is “very sad, concerning and disappointing” to hear that pharmacy teams will not be automatically eligible for the scheme.

“As soon as this news came to our attention, we wrote to NHS England and the chief pharmaceutical officer responded quickly saying they will urgently look into this and seek clarification,” said Ms Hannbeck, who added that AIMp has also written “a personal note to Matt Hancock”.

National Pharmacy Association (NPA) CEO Mark Lyonette told C+D that the NPA has also contacted Mr Hancock for clarification on “eligibility for the payment”.

“Community pharmacists and other pharmacy staff are risking their lives every day to serve on the frontline alongside their colleagues across the NHS and social care. It is only right and fair that they should also be entitled to the same death in service benefits,” Mr Lyonette said.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee CEO Simon Dukes told C+D that the organisation “will do everything it can to make sure the state recognises the sacrifice of those who have died and supports their next of kin appropriately at this dreadful time.”

Company Chemists' Association CEO Malcolm Harrison told C+D that the organisation is “working hard to ensure that the hard work and dedication of community pharmacy teams gets the recognition it deserves”. Ppharmacy team members should be included in the DH’s life assurance definitions,” it stressed.

Similar schemes in Scotland, NI, Wales

PDA director Paul Day told C+D that the PDA’s position is “consistent across the UK” and that it expects community pharmacists to be included in the death-in-service scheme “if and when” such schemes are established in the other three UK countries.

The DH said yesterday that “Wales is implementing the same scheme and arrangements are being considered in Scotland and Northern Ireland”.

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said in an oral statement today (April 29) that the death-in-service scheme in Wales “gives equal recognition to staff across health, social care and community pharmacy”.

21 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of the DH's statement on life assurance?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Because £60k is a tremendous amount of money and will really comfort my family if I die(not forgetting the weekly clap and possible minutes silence) They can keep it. I'll do what I have to do to stay alive and healthy, but thanks all the same.

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

£60k is a joke amount of money.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

"Pharmacy bodies’ anger at ‘perverse’ DH life assurance decision" Ha! given, with the exception of the PDA, that Pharmacy bodies have been entirely supine on anything that affects PHARMACISTS rather than contracts, and even then, there has been a dont rock the boat attitude, Its not surprising that the government has a dont give a toss attitude to Pharmacists and their teams. - they know there will be a minor show of anger but no adverse publicity, no serious repercussions... another victory and money saved.

edited to add... every time a doctor or nurse is tragically killed by this virus, their story is out there, I assume pushed by their representative bodies. The vacuum in the Pharmacy sector is stark.

O J, Community pharmacist

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.chemistanddruggist.co.uk/news/keith-ridge-i-get-frustration-over-pharmacy-closures%3famp

Bless his little cotton socks

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Writing a letter is going to achieve jack poo. Community pharmacies do not need to be open through the May holidays - and should refuse to do so on the total and contemptible exclusion of front line professionals.

N patel , Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

have set up a petition on parliament website. once it goes live will post link on here

V K P, Community pharmacist

once again, the pharmacist has to come to harm before any recognition is afforded. this is diabolical. it feels like we are being punished for qualifying as a pharmacist or choosing to work in the pharmacy sector. 

How High?, Community pharmacist

Perhaps we can tell them to jog on then next Friday when they want us open as we're essential.

"Sorry mate, can't do. Jog on"

C A, Community pharmacist

"Sorry Matt, we can only extend bank holidays hours in exceptional circumstances" 

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

Who does this policy cover.....if it covers GP’s then it should cover Pharmacists (and pharmacy staff) given both are ‘contractors to the NHS’, or is it only people directly employed by the NHS?

The way I read the policy is it covers healthcare staff who perform "hands on" care, so personal care or clinical examination. Since pharmacists don't generally do this (I certainly don't go anywhere near patients at the moment, but maybe some do?) I don't think we will be part of this scheme. I dare say receptionists and admin staff at GP surgeries won't be included but a HCP doing any face to face appointments will be. If it only includes people employed by the NHS then it's just hospital staff, paramedics and community nurses (maybe a few others).

It all sounds like a classic case of a crowd pleasing announcement from the DOH that's light on detail.

Not saying I agree with the policy, just stating who I think is included in the scheme as it stands. I'd be fully behind all workers in essential patient facing roles being eligible, whether they work for the NHS or not

Jonathan smith, Superintendent Pharmacist

the fire service strikes, pilots strike, post office strikes, teachers strike, the list goes on but pharmacy seems only too greatful to accept the crappiest of deals because at least that means someone has noticed us. its quite heartbraking how COVID has shown the utter contempt for pharmacy. No PPE, no access to supermarkets during the NHS hour, not eligible for the NHS discounts, forced to continue to serve patients whilst other health proffesionals lock their doors, and if we die as a result of all that we are excluded from the life assurance scheme. maybe Matt Hancock could explain the reason for this to my wife and child that they get nothing if i die helping people while a lot of the population can earn 80% of their salary (up to £2500) to be sat at home.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Don't be fooled into thinking the furlough/bailout is for ordinary folk. It's for multimillionaires and billionaires.

Linda Victoria, Community pharmacist

Be a locum and just do the time you like is the best options I think. The main job now is to stay alive as I personally do not want to die and leave my family behind. If I die, people only say, " thank you, she is lovely and rest in peace" and I do not want to hear any of that lovely words. Just saying thank you is not enough! Wear face masks and wear viser when speaking to customers as some customers like to cough in front of me. The GP surgery is the cleverest, shut the door and just do phone consultations so frustrating people still coming to pharmacy to have a word with pharmacist. I can still remember last month the lovely surgery asked the patient to come to pharmacy to do blood pressure check when they are not seeing patients themselves. Hello? Are we pharmacists made of steel or what?

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

Best option is to get out the sector completely.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), told C+D that it is “very sad, concerning and disappointing” to hear that pharmacy teams will not be automatically eligible for the scheme.

“As soon as this news came to our attention, we wrote to NHS England and the chief pharmaceutical officer responded quickly saying they will urgently look into this and seek clarification,” said Ms Hannbeck, who added that AIMp has also written “a personal note to Matt Hancock”.

bollocks! why write to them and waste time! get out ther on BBC sky and ITV, tell them that GPS are safe, Pharmacists arent and why, ask ALL the awkward questions there not in a letter that will get a none answer and ignored

Robert Mitchell, Community pharmacist

This is just another example of how little is thought of community pharmacy by this government. I fear the only way forward may be strike action.

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

Striking won’t work as they would just expect other non-Pharmacist pharmacy staff to step up........

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

And that's why the Community Pharmacist role is now redundant.

N patel , Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

all very laudable but me fears as  empty vessels make the loudest noise....as for keith ridge raising this at the highest levels ...words fail me

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