NHS staff with long Covid ‘returning to work early over job fears’

By Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent

NHS staff suffering with long Covid symptoms are returning to work early because they are afraid of losing their jobs, according to a new report.

Unison said a survey among its members revealed anxiety, fear and “shockingly bad” treatment from managers were among the reasons for returning to work before feeling well enough.

The 1,900 respondents, including healthcare assistants, nurses, porters and clinical support staff, reported having had or still experiencing long Covid symptoms.

More than two in three were back in the workplace while suffering with symptoms including breathlessness, fatigue, brain fog and aching joints.

Two in five of the health workers who have or who’ve had a long Covid said their employer offered support to return to work, such as adjusting job roles, or allowing time off without staff using up their sickness or leave entitlement.

A minority have been asked to attend a formal absence hearing or were threatened with disciplinary action or even the sack, said Unison.

The union’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “Long Covid must be seen and treated as a disability so staff with the condition are protected and supported to return to work.”

She added: “Some health workers are being punished for being ill and risk being driven out of the health service, just when they are needed the most.

“That so many NHS staff are back at work despite still being poorly illustrates their dedication to their jobs.

“But some are likely to be returning too soon because they’re worried that managers will turn against them if they take the time they need to recover fully.

“This is no way to treat staff who’ve given their all to get the nation through the pandemic.”

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