A nurse living with long Covid said a compensation scheme for frontline workers suffering from long-term effects of the virus needs to be “easy for workers to access” so employers cannot “hide” away from offering help.
The Government has been urged to recognise Covid-19 as an occupational disease, as some sufferers have found it hard to return to work.
Symptoms of long Covid include ongoing fatigue, loss of taste or smell, and respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and this week Professor Danny Altmann, from Imperial College London, said up to 20% of patients are reporting symptoms of the disease weeks after becoming ill.
One Yorkshire nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, believes she first caught Covid back in April, after travelling in an ambulance with an infectious patient.
She has struggled to return to work and suffers from fatigue, migraines, dizziness, brain fog and shortness of breath.
The oncology nurse said she “fully supported” the APPG’s (All-Party Parliamentary Group) aims but said: “What needs to happen is that the process for compensation is easy for workers and their employers can’t hide behind Public Health England or other regulatory bodies.”
She had been following the correct PPE guidance at the time she caught Covid — wearing only a surgical mask, although new guidance now says a higher level of PPE is required — and said she fears trusts may use this as a reason to not pay out compensation.
She said staff on zero-hours contracts would be “vulnerable to not having the full protection of full sick pay and workers’ rights”, with some trusts reliant on agency staff due to chronic understaffing.
“I have been laid in bed with Covid, was so ill I ended up in hospital and I remember hearing the claps out of the window and just thinking it was an absolutely meaningless gesture from the Government,” she added.
“Claps don’t pay the bills.”
APPG on Coronavirus chairwoman Layla Moran said: “Long Covid is the hidden health crisis of the pandemic, and it is likely to have an enormous impact on society for many years to come.
“When it comes to frontline NHS, care and key workers, they were specifically asked to go to work and save lives while everyone else was asked to stay at home.
“They were exposed to an increased level of risk of catching the virus, often without adequate levels of PPE.”
The group wants the Government to follow France, Germany, Belgium and Denmark, which have formally recognised Covid as an “occupational disease”.
A letter, signed by more than 60 MPs and peers, has been sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Their call has been backed by Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) Council, who said a compensation scheme to support healthcare staff is “only right”.
He added: “After being exposed to increased risk working on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic, there are now healthcare workers across the country living with the long-term, debilitating impacts of having caught the virus.
“We have heard harrowing stories from doctors suffering with long Covid, who are often unable to work, threatening their financial stability and affecting their lives at home.”
Four major studies into the long-term effects of coronavirus will be boosted by £18.5 million of Government funding.
The cause, symptoms and effects of long Covid will be investigated during the research, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Thursday.