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Ridge: Life assurance covers all team members

NHS England chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge

All community pharmacy team members will be eligible for the Government’s coronavirus health worker life assurance scheme in England, chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge has confirmed.

In a NHS England & Improvement webinar on Thursday May 7, Mr Ridge said that following widespread criticism of the Government’s initial announcement of the scheme, he had “taken very serious steps at the highest level” to address the concerns of pharmacy teams.

The Department of Health and Social Care had previously said the scheme would only cover pharmacists “in exceptional circumstances” and was criticised for remaining silent on whether all pharmacy staff were included.

Mr Ridge said his intervention had “ensured that community pharmacy teams will be eligible for the new coronavirus life assurance scheme,” noting that in a recent daily briefing health secretary Matt Hancock said that “support would be available across pharmacy and across social care”.

“The detailed arrangements of the life assurance scheme are expected to be published shortly, including with respect to pharmacy,” said Mr Ridge.

Scheme extended to locums

An NHSE&I official clarified during the webinar that the scheme would also extend to locum pharmacists.

“It’s about whether the pharmacist has been working delivering NHS services in an environment where in the previous 14 days they could have contracted the virus from contact with patients or service users… it’s about situational risk rather than employment status,” they said.

Mr Ridge also referred to recent findings indicating that BAME individuals appear to be at greater risk of dying from Covid-19 and said: “I expect pharmacy employers, be that the NHS or others, to carry out a risk assessment and put in place measures to mitigate those risks. I’ll be paying very close attention to those matters.”

NHSE&I primary care director Nikita Kanani said a risk assessment tool would soon be available to community pharmacies to help reduce the risks faced by BAME staff members. The tool will address issues at workplace, workforce and individual levels, she said.

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