'I Felt Betrayed': Hospital Cleaner Asks Boris Johnson to Extend Bereavement Scheme to Support Staff

A Syrian hospital employee’s plea to Boris Johnson to reconsider an NHS bereavement scheme that excluded hospital cleaners, porters, and social care staff went viral on May 20, hours before a policy change including such workers was announced.

Hassan Akkad, who is from Syria and documented his 87-day journey to the UK for a BAFTA-winning BBC film in 2015, is currently a hospital cleaner at Whipps Cross University Hospital in London, and posted the video to his Twitter account on May 20 with the caption, “I hope you can help me get this message delivered to Mr Boris Johnson.”

After receiving pressure from the Labour Party and unions, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the bereavement scheme would now include NHS support staff and social care workers, according to reports.

The video garnered fast engagement across the internet, accruing over two million views in just eight hours.

Akkad begins the video by introducing himself and explaining that he wanted to be part of helping England overcome the pandemic. He goes on to discuss how he enjoys the clapping to honor health care workers, but then says that today he felt betrayed and stabbed in the back.

At the time of recording, the bereavement scheme did not allow for families of hospital cleaners, porters, or social care workers to stay in the UK for an indefinite amount of time, as it did for doctors, nurses, and other health care workers.

“So if I die, my partner isn’t allowed an indefinite leave to remain. This is your way of saying ‘thank you’ to us,” Akkad says as he chokes back tears.

The video ends with Akkad pleading for Johnson to reconsider, saying “us migrants” are fighting the virus on the front lines in very demanding jobs. Credit: Hassan Akkad via Storyful