Over 450 key workers with long Covid tell MPs of their struggles

House of commons

More than 450 key workers with long Covid have told a cross-party parliamentary inquiry of their experiences of the condition, including struggles to return to work and lack of financial support, with one in 10 having lost their job.

Nurses, teachers, GPs, police officers and midwives were among those who shared their experience of long Covid, symptoms of which include debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pains, sleeping difficulties and brain fog.

One in five of the 460 key workers who responded to the call for evidence by the all party parliamentary group (APPG) on coronavirus said they had been off work for a year or more as a result long Covid, 30% for between six months and a year, and 25% for between three and six months.

One 50-year-old GP said she was removed from her practice, where she had been a partner since 2002, after being unable to return to work after 26 weeks off, in accordance with the partnership agreement.

“I’ve got what they call the brain fog, which in my case means that I can’t pull lots of information together quickly and make sensible decisions about it,” she said. “I mean I’m still making some terribly stupid decisions just in my day-to-day life, I can’t reliably write a shopping list or put my lunch together or navigate to a car park. I’m absolutely hopeless, my brain doesn’t work properly at the moment, and so I am not safe making decisions about other people.

“This is not a situation that I thought I would find myself in. I expected to be a GP at that practice for another 15 years … It was very much a part of me.”

Like others who responded, she believes she caught Covid at work, having been told at the time not to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) unless someone had symptoms.

Three other GPs, four teachers or teaching assistants and four carers or care assistants also said they had lost their jobs.

The APPG, which is holding an evidence session on Tuesday, is calling on the government to set up a compensation scheme to provide ongoing financial support to key workers who have been unable to return to work after developing long Covid. It is backed by the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.

Layla Moran, the chair of the APPG, said: “The harrowing evidence we’ve received lays bare how long Covid has devastated lives and ruined careers. It is morally indefensible that key workers who got long Covid on the frontline of the pandemic are being abandoned without proper financial support.

“These nurses, doctors and other brave employees looked after us all during the darkest days of the pandemic. Now it is the government’s turn to look after them.”

Government data published last month suggests that more than 2 million adults in England may have experienced long Covid, described as symptoms lasting more than 12 weeks. There are fears that last Monday’s lifting of restrictions in England could lead to a surge in long Covid among young adults not yet fully vaccinated.

A government spokesperson said: “There is already a strong financial safety net for anyone who has a long-term health condition, including long Covid and who therefore needs support.

“This includes statutory sick pay, universal credit and [employment and support allowance] Esa, and [personal independence payments] Pip if they have daily living and/or mobility needs for three months, and are expected to have these for at least another nine months.

“In addition to this we have invested £134m into long Covid support in England and have already opened more than 80 long Covid assessment services as part of an expansion of care.”