School teacher key worker

Following the announcement that schools will remain open for the children of key workers when schools close today, the government has confirmed who falls under the definition of a “key worker.”

According to the Department for Education: “If your work is critical to the COVID-19 response, or you work in one of the critical sectors listed below, and you cannot keep your child safe at home then your children will be prioritised for education provision.”

Top of the list is the health and social care sector, with frontline staff such as doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers and care workers being identified as vital to the effort to curb coronavirus.

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Additionally, social care staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector have also been acknowledged as key workers.

Importantly, the Department for Education has also stated: “Those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.”

Under this definition, it would suggest that staff involved in producing and distributing medical devices are included as key workers,  enabling those involved in the supply and distribution of medical equipment to have their children remain in school during the closures, where appropriate.

Playing a vital role in the provision of equipment and services required to ensure disabled people and the elderly can live independently and safely, the healthcare industries play a vital role in helping to reduce pressure on the NHS.

Yesterday, the British Healthcare Trades Association’s (BHTA) CEO Dr Simon Festing called for urgent clarity regarding the definition of ‘key workers’ and wrote to the Department of Health and Social Care; Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government; NHS England; and Local Government.

According to the BHTA, numerous members had raised concerns over their ability to provide these essential services in the event that key staff are unavailable due to self-isolation or lack of childcare.

Pushing for the inclusion of workers in the healthcare industries to be classed as ‘key workers’, the Association says it members had identified that up to 40 per cent of their service/production workforce would have had difficulty in continuing to deliver their services to the NHS.

These include the manufacturing of key medical products, the installation of equipment to enable patients to quickly be discharged from hospital and the delivery of services such as decontamination of medical devices.

The BHTA says it is seeking clarity over what are deemed essential products and services, pointing out that products in this sector range from profiling beds needed urgently by hospitals, through to stoma and urology devices needed by patients both in hospital and at home, and to items such as stairlifts, bathlifts, and wheelchairs.

“It is vital that these continue to be delivered, installed, decontaminated, and repaired, for the safe care of patients in hospitals and care homes, and the safety of very vulnerable members of the public in their own homes,” highlighted Dr Festing.

“Manufacturers, suppliers and service providers are all putting appropriate measures in place to keep their staff and their customers safe but will need assistance if key staff have had to self-isolate, in determining whether they can resume their duties.

“Extension of testing to this sector will help immeasurably in ensuring continuity of supply to the NHS and to vulnerable people, as will an assurance that they will be able to access protective garments such as masks to enable them to fulfil their duties.”

Click to see the full list of ‘key workers’ as defined by the Department for Education

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