Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today unveiled his party’s five-point plan for supporting front line health and social care staff through the coronavirus crisis, including expanding mental health support for frontline staff, expanded provision of personal protective equipment and a £29 per day active duty allowance.
Commenting on the proposals, Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“Like most people, I join the clap for carers on Thursday but that alone is hardly just reward for what we are asking them to do.
“Day after day, our NHS and care staff are on the frontline, putting their lives at risk to keep us safe and care for the critically ill. Yet alarmingly, many aren’t getting the support they need.
“That’s why the Scottish Liberal Democrats are calling for a comprehensive support package for frontline workers - to give them the support and recognition they deserve.
“These proposals are designed to address some of the most common issues that I have had raised with me by health and social care staff as well as provided a degree of support, reassurance and comfort for them and their families.
“I hope that the Scottish Government will accept the principles laid out in this package of proposals and work with us to deliver for our front line health and social care staff.”
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.