A CARE worker from Newport who fell critically ill with coronavirus feels “incredibly let down” after being excluded from the Welsh Government’s £500 bonus scheme for carers – a move that quite literally adds insult to injury.

Jamie Branagan spent 34 days in intensive care with Covid-19, suffering kidney failure, pneumonia, and cardiac arrest.

The 52-year-old was so ill that when he came off a ventilator, he had to re-learn how to speak and walk.


Doctors have told him recovery could take more than a year. Mr Branagan requires full-time care, cannot return to work, and has had to apply for benefits in order to pay his bills.

A £500 special payment from the Welsh Government would help ease his financial pressures, but agency nurse Mr Branagan is not eligible for the cash because of a small-print technicality.

The special one-off payment of £500 to care home workers was announced in May by first minister Mark Drakeford, who said at the time: “I want our social care workforce to know their hard work is both appreciated and recognised.”

But a closer look at the scheme’s small print reveals agency nurses can only receive the £500 if they completed 12 consecutive weeks’ work, or longer, in the same care home; and reached that target between March 15 and May 31.

Mr Branagan said these conditions were arbitrary and effectively punished agency nurses like himself who had worked in more than one care home during the coronavirus outbreak. This “nomadic” movement between homes, he argued, was a natural part of agency work.

“Agency nurses often support services at short notice, and flexibility is the difference between a service at risk and a safely-run provision,” Mr Branagan told the Argus.

“To be overlooked for this payment due to a criteria that hardly any nurse will meet appears to be a money saving exercise.

“Why is it that care assistants are not subject to the same criteria?”

In fact, the £500 payment is available to any other member of staff who worked in a care home in Wales at any point between March 15 and May 31, whether they were in-house or agency employees.

The 12-week rule and the single care home rule have been applied only to agency nurses.

Mr Branagan said he felt “incredibly let down by the Welsh Government”.

“It’s all well and good clapping for key workers for a minute a week, but clapping does not pay bills, especially following serious illness,” he said.

“As an agency nurse, we undertake exactly the same role as an NHS nurse, albeit in variable settings.

“Why should we be omitted just because we don’t work in a fixed environment?”

Responding to Mr Branagan's concerns, a Welsh Government spokeswoman reiterated the eligibility criteria for the £500 bonus scheme.

“We greatly value the health and care support provided by nurses in care homes," she said. “Residents benefit from consistency and continuity of care by people they form relationships with, which happens when nurses are permanent employees or long-term agency staff members, and therefore we particularly wish to reward the stable nursing workforce within care homes.

"Longer-term agency nurses and nurses employed by care homes will receive the special payment.

"Short-term agency nurses and nurses employed by the NHS who have provided short-term help in some care homes at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis are not included in the scheme.”