The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

Coronavirus update

The government’s announcement of a payout of £60,000 to the families of those NHS staff who die of coronavirus has been widely welcomed.

It’s particularly important for those workers who are not in the NHS pension scheme — which provides good death-in-service benefits — and those families would suffer financially if they died.

But the devil is in the detail. Despite the Department of Health and Social Care listing many NHS organisations whose staff might be eligible, it has now become clear that many workers — including managers — are unlikely to be covered because they work in areas without covid-19 outbreaks.

Death-in-service is not the only payout the government has covered. As part of its drive to have thousands of ventilators manufactured to help the NHS in the next weeks and months, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has indemnified companies whose machines are approved for use in the NHS from legal claims in the event of faulty equipment.

It’s yet another sign of the unusual time we live in that the government is proactively risking footing the bill for potential failures by private companies.

Meanwhile, despite having been over a month since the shielding guidance was released, there are still problems making sure everybody is on it that should be. New conditions have been added in the last few days — namely those receiving dialysis and people who have had their spleen removed — complicating matters further. 

The list is now expected to balloon from the initial 1.5 million patients to 2 million by the end of the month. With hospital consultants, GPs and patients themselves all able to make additions to the shielding list, conflict has arisen as to who needs to shield and one senior GP has described the system as a “mess”.