Compensation for community pharmacy team members who die of COVID-19

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The government should guarantee that the families of community pharmacists who die of COVID-19 will receive the same £60,000 of life assurance as other frontline healthcare workers.

A scheme guaranteeing a £60,000 payout for public health workers in frontline roles who die from the virus including GPs, dentists, students, care home staff, and social workers launched on April 27. But the Department of Health and Social Care has since said that it would only cover pharmacists in “exceptional circumstances”.

For workers in community pharmacies to be excluded from the initiative is to ignore the crucial work they have been doing on the frontline of healthcare throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

Pharmacy teams must serve patients, who may have contracted the virus, in person every single day. Like hospital staff, they must use personal protective equipment to reduce the chance of infection.

Pharmacy workers have a high risk of contracting the virus in the workplace. So far, three have died from COVID-19. Among them was Mehool Patel, the owner of Bliss Chemist in London and father of two children, who passed away on April 23.

Community pharmacy workers are the only healthcare professionals in primary care continuing to open their doors to patients during the pandemic. They are keeping a tide of patients from swamping hospitals. If pharmacies were to close there would be chaos. Many GPs have closed their practices and switched to video consultations, but this is not an option for pharmacy teams.  

It is vital that the government recognises the frontline work that pharmacies do, otherwise it risks discouraging their staff from turning up to work at all.