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Life assurance must be extended, says RCN

Nursing staff who die from COVID-19 after this week will not be entitled to a life assurance payment despite ongoing loss of life, provoking outcry from the RCN

From today nursing staff who die from COVID-19 will not be entitled to a life assurance payment despite ongoing loss of life, to the fury of the RCN.

Ten health and care workers died in the three months to 5 March this year following workplace exposure, according to the Health and Safety Executive. The NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance scheme, which entitles families of nursing staff and others who die from COVID-19 to financial support, ended in England on 31 March. The RCN has written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care calling for an urgent extension to the scheme.

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‘Hundreds of health and care staff have lost their life to COVID-19 which they contracted as part of their vital work on the frontline during the pandemic,’ said RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen.

‘The overriding principle must be that no member of nursing staff who loses their life this year should be afforded any less respect and family support than one who died in 2020 or 2021.

If the scheme is not extended, it will mean the families of health and care staff who contract COVID-19 at work and then die from 1 April will not be entitled to compensation worth £60,000.

With COVID-19 cases surging following the lifting of restrictions – and with warnings of new, severe variants to come – the RCN says now is not the time to end the scheme.

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‘The pandemic is far from over. Now is not the right time to remove the reassurance that if the worst were to happen to nursing staff delivering frontline care, their loved ones would be compensated,’ added Ms Cullen.

‘I urge you to delay the end of the scheme until a time when nursing staff and all health and care workers are assured that their lives are not at such risk from the pandemic.’