Cole-Hamilton calls for action to support NHS and care workers

Responding to confirmation from the First Minister that 11 NHS and social care staff have died of coronavirus, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:

"The country owes a massive debt to all of the NHS and care staff who are working so hard to keep us safe. Too many of them have paid with their lives.

"However our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It's time for concrete action to alleviate the pressure on our NHS workers. That means proper mental health support for frontline staff, an additional deployment allowance of £29 per day on active duty and for ministers to agree a generous death in service scheme for all those who lose their lives protecting others.

On the news that last week more people died of coronavirus in care homes than in hospitals, Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

"Care staff are demonstrating incredible resilience and commitment to safeguard the most vulnerable in our society against this horrible disease. 

"They urgently need a massive increase in care home testing so that when a Covid-19 case is diagnosed in any care home all residents and staff are immediately tested." 

The Scottish Liberal Democrat five-point plan is as follows:

1: Personal protection kit now. We need to ensure frontline workers are protected. Right now health workers are concerned that stocks of personal protective equipment might run out, while residential and home care staff feel they are the last in line to get supplies. The Scottish Government need to guarantee the supply chain for our hospitals and social care workers to ensure that they can tackle each shift with all the fresh kit they need.

2: Mental health support for frontline staff. In January, before the virus even hit, research from the Scottish Liberal Democrats showed 45 million days have been lost in the NHS because of staff mental ill health. The stress was always bad, but it is close to unbearable for those workers facing trauma and death every day. A new, dedicated staff mental health and trauma helpline for frontline workers, which gets them straight to a trauma-trained counsellor is needed.

3: Frontline service reward. Military service personnel receive a deployment allowance of £29 per day on active duty in addition to their normal pay. We believe the same principle should apply to NHS and care staff putting themselves in harm’s way during the coronavirus epidemic. Care workers in particular aren’t paid enough to begin with, so it’s time we recognise the efforts of these workers in financial terms.

4: Bereavement and funeral support. We need to recognise the sacrifice that some workers might end up making. The NHS has a “death in service” scheme – but it’s not as generous as the military's and many workers on the coronavirus frontline aren’t eligible. Ministers must ensure every NHS and care worker becomes eligible so they know their families will be supported. Ministers should also agree to pay for all the funerals of key workers who die trying to protect others from Covid 19. 

5: A Coronavirus Service Medal. Workers on the coronavirus frontline should get recognition for the risks they have faced, with a new “Coronavirus Service Medal”. They are playing a major role to keep our country safe and it should be properly and formally recognised.

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