The new international development secretary Priti Patel is being asked what steps are being taken for the 200 NHS workers and academics - who risked their lives in combating the deadly Ebola virus disease - to receive the more than £4,000 bonus that was paid to colleagues working for Public Health England (PHE).
Renewed pressure has come from Unite, the country’s largest union with 100,000 members in the health service, which has been campaigning since the end of last year for all those who tackled the Ebola virus in West Africa to receive the bonus, but was continually ignored by Ms Patel’s predecessor, Justine Greening.
Unite has now written to Priti Patel after David Cameron at his penultimate prime minister’s question time earlier this month pledged to look into the issue.
About 250 staff from Public Health England (PHE), including the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Public Health Wales (PHW), were given this payment for their work in Sierra Leone. PHE was reimbursed by the Department for International Development (DFID).
However, 200 volunteers from the NHS and academia have, so far, been denied the payment, even though they were working in the same life-threatening situations.
Unite said that those that went to West Africa did not go for financial reward, but there should not be a two-tier bonus payment system. The payment was broken down as follows: a deployment allowance of £516.50, an operational working allowance of £3,615.50 and a tax free clothing allowance of £100.
In his letter to the minister, Brighton-based Ian Evans, chair of Unite’s national healthcare sciences committee offered to meet Ms Patel, if such a meeting would be beneficial.
He wrote: “Due to the demands of this crisis, there were insufficient numbers of healthcare scientists available which resulted in a request for additional numbers to be provided by the NHS and from academia.
Ian Evans said that a large cohort was deployed, with a significant number still being deployed - and all of them have been happy and proud to be able to help.
“We all acknowledge that colleagues who volunteered to be deployed did not do this because there was a financial incentive, but it does not excuse a two-tier payment scheme.
“We believe that all volunteers, who were deemed suitable by PHE and trained by the Novel and Dangerous Pathogens team at the Porton Down facility, should not be subject to any disparity.”
After more than 11,000 deaths over nearly two years, the West Africa Ebola outbreak was finally declared over on 14 January 2016. However, The World Health Organisation has warned that more flare ups can be expected.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.