Long Covid causing ‘debilitating impact’ on doctors

Many are still unable to work.

Ella Pickover
Tuesday 04 July 2023 00:01 BST
A significant number of doctors are still suffering from the impacts of long Covid (PA)
A significant number of doctors are still suffering from the impacts of long Covid (PA)

A “significant” number of doctors are still suffering with the “debilitating effects” of long Covid, according to a new report.

Many are left in financial limbo as they have been forced to quit work or reduce their hours, the British Medical Association (BMA) report warns.

This is “contributing to the loss of UK health service staff at a time when we can least afford it”, the authors said.

Some 600 doctors with long Covid were quizzed about the impact on their day-to-day lives.

One in five told the BMA and the Long Covid Doctors for Action group they had been forced to stop work or significantly cut back on their hours.

Carrying out essential daily activities such as getting dressed, household activities and childcare have become difficult or not possible for 60% of the medics who took part in the survey.

Nearly half (49%) said they have experienced loss of earnings as a result of long Covid symptoms of which include: fatigue, headaches, muscular pain, nerve damage, joint pain, ongoing respiratory problems.

Life is absolutely miserable. Every day is a struggle.

Consultant with long Covid

Half (54%) of the medics who took part in the survey have been struggling with symptoms since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, with many saying they did not have access to personal protective equipment when they were initially infected.

The BMA has made a series of calls to support doctors with long Covid, including:

– Financial support for doctors and other health workers with long Covid.

– Long Covid to be recognised as an “occupational disease”.

– Better access to physical and mental health services for those affected after the report said that access to NHS long Covid clinics is “patchy”.

– Greater “workplace protection” for staff.

– More support to help healthcare workers return to work “safely”.

“Doctors managing the uncertain and sometimes debilitating effects of post-acute Covid, as a result of workplace exposure to Covid-19, cannot be forgotten,” the authors wrote.

One GP told the authors: “I can no longer work, finances are ruined. I didn’t have employment protection so am now unemployed and penniless.”

A consultant added: “Life is absolutely miserable. Every day is a struggle. I wake up exhausted, the insomnia and night terrors are horrendous as I live through my worst fears every night.”

Another added: “I am almost housebound, and have had to buy a mobility scooter for the few occasions that I am well enough to get out.”

Professor David Strain, chair of the BMA’s board of science, said: “We know that throughout the pandemic Covid-19 had a profound and often tragic impact on healthcare workers, but now this report and the heart-breaking accounts within it lay bare the debilitating effect that the virus continues to have on those doctors living with long-term symptoms.”

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Long Covid can have a debilitating impact and we are backing our world-leading scientists with over £50 million to better understand the long-term effects of this virus and make treatments available.

“NHS staff are able to seek support for long Covid from their GP or one of the 100 specialist clinics available nationwide.

“The NHS has also committed £324 million to support people with ongoing symptoms of long Covid.”

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