Family of pharmacy technician approved for £60k COVID-19 death-in-service benefit

A payment of £60,000 has been granted for the family of a registered checking technician in the Wirral, who died from COVID-19 in April.

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The government’s death-in-service scheme during the pandemic covers pharmacy staff, but there have been delays with payments

The family of a pharmacy technician who died from COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic has spoken of their relief after their application for a death-in-service benefit was approved.

Mandy Siddorn, 61, worked as a registered checking technician at Swettenham Chemists in the Wirral. She died in hospital on 8 April 2020 after contracting COVID-19.

Her daughter, Aimee Cheyne, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that, despite applying for the benefit as soon as they were able, they had waited months for the approval.

“It will never bring my mum back, but will certainly help and offer some security,” said Cheyne, who lost her job in June 2020.

She said that, despite providing all the required paperwork, a decision on providing the £60,000 life assurance payment took longer than they had expected.

“Apparently they are struggling with pharmacy workers, especially if they work in the community, due to them not being direct NHS staff,” Cheyne said.

The government confirmed in April 2020 that the scheme, for families of frontline healthcare staff who died after contracting COVID-19 while at work, would include pharmacy teams.

For some other families of pharmacists who died from COVID-19, their applications are on hold because they are stuck in probate.

Kanan Patel, wife of Jayesh Patel, a locum pharmacist in Surrey who died in hospital on 22 April 2020 aged 53 years, said she had spoken to a claims assessor, who confirmed probate was required before she could claim the £60,000 payment she needs to help provide for the couple’s two teenage daughters.

“It has been over three months now. I sent them an email last week but I haven’t heard anything. I am at a loss as to who I can contact and how I get this sorted.”

Sudeesh Chandrasekharan, a close family friend of Birender Rawat, a community pharmacist in north London who died from COVID-19 in hospital on 1 April 2020, said they were in the same situation.

“It’s a catch-22 situation. The claim for £60k is stuck as the system won’t process further unless she gets the probate. It’s been five months now.

“It’s sad that people have to go through this when they are already crushed under the pain of bereavement.”

Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “While we are happy that the government included pharmacists and their teams in the service benefit for those healthcare workers who die from coronavirus, it is concerning that some families are experiencing difficulties in these applications. Frontline pharmacy staff have been incredible during this pandemic, dedicating themselves to serving patients and remaining open throughout. All pharmacy teams need to be recognised as valued NHS workers and given easy access to the support benefit they need should the very worst happen.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said they could not comment on individual cases.

“The NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme provides financial security to the families of NHS and social care staff who tragically die from coronavirus contracted through the course of their work,” they said.

“We are writing to relevant employers to raise awareness of the scheme and to help ensure eligible claims are made.”

The DHSC confirmed that, as of 25 November, 256 claims have been received in England, 217 of which had been accepted for payment, and the remainder were being processed. No claims have so far been rejected, they said.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ December 2020, Vol 305, No 7944;305(7944):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208603