The government has accepted 744 claims by the families of health and social care frontline workers in England and Wales who died during the pandemic, and has so far paid over £43million compensation

By Dr Minh Alexander retired consultant psychiatrist, 30 January 2023

There has been secrecy about how badly COVID has affected frontline workers, for obvious reasons. The government’s negligence and policy failures raise serious liability issues.

In the NHS, it remains to be seen how well supported staff affected by long COVID will be.

The NHS has avoided publishing the actual number of staff affected by long COVID.

Not all NHS trusts even collect data on long COVID affecting their staff.

Indirect assessment of changes in NHS leavers patterns raised questions about upward trends in voluntary resignations for health reasons and early retirements.

FOI data from some NHS trusts indicated that NHS England had been collecting data on the numbers of NHS staff referred to post COVID assessment services, but that it has kept this data to itself.

A subsequent FOI response from NHS England denied that NHSE held such data.

The Department of Health and Social Care has washed its hands and does not intend to collate data on NHS staff affected by long COVID.

NHS Resolution admits it is handling personal injury claims by NHS staff affected with long COVID, but says the cases are not specifically coded and it cannot search for such cases.

Another route to data on the impact of COVID on NHS staff is the government scheme to compensate the families of health and social care staff who died from COVID-19 contracted at work, the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme 2020, for England and Wales.

The government’s published material stated:

 “The scheme recognises the increased risk faced by staff during the crisis and will cover coronavirus related deaths of workers in frontline health and adult and children’s social care roles during the outbreak.”

The scheme was established in May 2020 and closed on 31 March 2022 (30 June 2022 in Wales). It will remain open to applications up to 31 March 2023 (30 June 2023 in Wales) for deaths that occurred whilst the scheme was open.

The NHS Business Services Authority, an Arms Length Body of the Department of Health, administrates the scheme.

An FOI request to NHSBSA has resulted in the following response.

In summary, 91.6% (744 of 812) of claims by the families of deceased health and social care workers to the government’s scheme up to 21 December have been accepted. 96.6% (719 of 744) of the accepted claims have been paid, with over £43 million paid so far.

The details given in the NHSBSA FOI response are as follows:

“As of 21 December 2022, there have been a total of 812 claims submitted to the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Schemes in England and Wales.

Of these, 500 claims relate to health and social care workers in the NHS. 291 relate to those employed in social care.”

“Of the 812 claims submitted to the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Schemes by the 21 December 2022, 744 had been accepted of which 451 related to the NHS and 276 to Social Care. 52 cases did not meet the eligibility criteria. The remaining 15 cases were under consideration and awaiting further information.”

“Of the 744 claims accepted on the 21 December 2022, 719 of the cases had received the payment. In total this amounts to £43,140,000 paid. In the remaining 25 cases, we were awaiting probate to enable payments to be made.”

About two thirds of the accepted claims related to NHS workers (451 of 744). But the social care workforce is slightly larger than the NHS workforce. The NHS workforce in England is about 1.3 million, the social care workforce in England is about 1.5 million.

According to an FOI release by ONS, there were a total of 1228 deaths of social care workers (aged 20 to 64 years) which involved COVID19 between 9 March 2020 and 28 February 2022. In the same period, there were 839 such deaths of healthcare workers.

It would be valuable to understand the reasons for the difference in rate of claims between NHS and social care workers, and whether the difference purely reflects the rate of work-related COVID deaths or also knowledge of and access to the compensation scheme.

The fact that the government has broadly accepted liability for the deaths must surely assist health and social care workers seeking support and redress for work-related long COVID injuries.

As does a recent coroner’s ruling early this month that the COVID deaths of two nurses in Wales constituted deaths from industrial disease.

Layla Moran MP and Chair of the coronavirus APPG is calling for frontline workers affected by long COVID, like NHS staff, to be immediately compensated.

There is a BBC Panorama broadcast tonight on how NHS workers have been affected by long COVID, and how many of them will now drop to half pay and are fearful of losing their jobs due to protracted illness and severe disability:

Forgotten Heroes of the Covid Front Line, 8 pm


I have written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to ask if the government has done everything it can to make eligible families aware of the life assurance scheme, and to consider extending the window for claims if there is any possibility of under-claiming. The letter has been copied to the Welsh minister for Health and Social Care, the UK COVID public inquiry and the general secretaries of some of the main unions.

Letter to Steve Barclay SoS 31 January 2023

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