Long Covid: 10K UK healthcare workers sick for over 3 months

London: Long Covid has affected more than 10,000 staffers of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), making them sick for 12 weeks or more since February 2020, the media reported.

However, these healthcare workers have found least support from their bosses and have also faced bullying and punishments by their employers, when taking time off, the Independent reported citing an investigation published in The Pharmaceutical Journal.

This comes as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded more than 2 million people in the country with long Covid symptoms. The figures include 4.55 per cent of people working within healthcare, among which 3.55 per cent suspect having had symptoms for at least 12 weeks.

Long Covid is defined as having new or ongoing symptoms four weeks or more after the start of disease. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of concentration and joint pain. The symptoms can adversely affect day-to-day activities, and in some cases can be severely limiting.

A survey by Unison, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, showed 46 per cent of 1,916 NHS staff said their employer was initially supportive of long Covid, but that this changed as time went on.

The survey, conducted in April. also found that nearly one in 10 NHS workers with long Covid had been asked to attend a formal absence hearing, and 2 per cent reported being threatened with disciplinary action or with the loss of their jobs, the report said.

“Some (healthcare staff) have returned to work before they’ve fully recovered, fearful they’ll face disciplinary action or even lose their jobs,” Kim Sunley, Unison’s health and safety lead, was quoted as saying to the Journal.

She added the staff have reported feeling “bullied and punished” by employers.

“This is deeply concerning, and failures to provide appropriate support can lead to staff being lost to the NHS entirely – which is bad for the employee, bad for patients, and bad for the NHS as a whole, exacerbating retention problems and pressures on the remaining workforce,” Raymond Agius, co-chair of the British Medical Association occupational medicine committee, was quoted as saying.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, an organisation which represents NHS trusts, said the NHS organisations are doing everything they can to support their staff who experience long Covid return to their roles.

“This will include holding regular conversations to understand their specific needs and whether any changes should be made to their working arrangements that might support a return to work,” he noted.

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