“The amount of people who have caught it in work places is relatively low we think from the evidence that we have got”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that community pharmacists in England will be included in the government’s Covid-19 ‘death in service’ scheme.

In a tweet this morning, the Heath Secretary said: “I’m glad to be able to confirm that community pharmacists are included in our death in service benefits. Because they are employed in a different way, it is arranged in a different way, but pharmacists are a vital part of our NHS family. They are of course covered.”

This follows days of shock, disbelief and utter dismay across the sector after Hancock’s announcement of a life assurance scheme on Monday (April 27) which stopped short of including community pharmacy staff as beneficiaries, alongside others on the NHS frontline workers who were included.

The Department of Health and Social Care said the scheme, which would pay £60,000 to families of NHS and social care workers who have died after contracting Covid-19 in the course of their duties, was targeted at frontline workers because of the “heightened risks they are facing when working in environments where they are providing care to coronavirus patients and patients with suspected coronavirus.”

A number of pharmacy orgnaisations, including the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, the Royal Pharmacuetical Society and the National Pharmacy Association, wrote to the government seeking clarification after it was revealed that community pharmacists, who were not “automatically included” in the scheme, would be considered only under “very exceptional circumstances.”

Royal Pharmaceutical Society President Sandra Gidley thanked the Health Secretary and said: “We very much hope this offer extends to pharmacy teams, as well as all pharmacists who support the public on the frontline. We will be seeking clarification about this with government officials, along with other detail about how the scheme will work in practice.”

Chair of the RPS in England Professor Claire Anderson said: “Pharmacists are risking their lives every day through face-to-face contact with the public. We must make sure our frontline teams are fully protected with PPE and considered part of the NHS family.

“We should never have had to have this battle, which has demoralised many in our profession. In future, we expect the nation’s third largest health profession to be included in key government announcements on policy affecting our NHS colleagues.”

Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee Simon Dukes said: “PSNC is pleased that the Secretary of State has clarified that community pharmacists will be included in the death in service scheme and recognises them as a key part of the wider NHS family.

“However, we will of course be seeking further details including confirmation on the inclusion of other members of the pharmacy team in this scheme.”

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