Nearly two million days lost in NHS staff absences

New figures indicate that NHS trusts in England lost nearly two million days in staff absences due to long Covid in the first 18 months of the pandemic.

Based on data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from 70 NHS trusts, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on coronavirus estimate that more than 1.82 million days were lost to healthcare workers with long Covid from March 2020 to September 2021 across England’s 219 NHS trusts. The estimate does not include the impact of the highly transmissible Omicron variant that has fulled record-breaking waves of infection in the UK and globally since it was first detected in November.

The Office for National Statistics estimates that 1.3 million people, or two per cent of the population, are living with long Covid. More than half a million have had symptoms for at least a year, with ailments ranging from breathlessness, fatigue and a cough to muscle aches and pains, ‘brain fog’, headaches and palpitations.

MPs have called on the government to recognise the condition as an occupational disease. The move would help standardise support and care for those affected, and improve data collection on the problem across the country. In a further step, the MPs urged ministers to set up a compensation scheme for key workers who have suffered financially through loss of work.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the APPG, said the government had paid ‘almost no attention to long Covid and the severe impact it was having on vital public services’ and called for immediate support for those affected.