On 14th January 2021 a cross-parliamentary group of MPs took part in a debate in Parliament to raise the issue of long covid and its impact on those who caught the virus early on in the pandemic. A particular focus was on frontline workers, NHS staff and others who have been exposed to the virus at work.
What is long covid?
Long covid is represented by various symptoms which last well beyond the 10-14 days period of being unwell, in some cases lasting for several months.
Reported symptoms of long covid include, but are not limited to:
- Frequent tiredness/fatigue
- Heart and breathing problems
- Short-term memory loss
- Dizzy spells
- Brain fog
- Mobility problems
Up to 1 in 5 of those infected with coronavirus can be affected by long covid and it is estimated that around 300,000 in the UK currently have it.
Why is the impact of long covid being debated?
Those debating have made the following recommendations:
- Better reporting of the illness, especially with regard to hospitalisations and deaths caused by long covid
- More money on research into long covid’s causes and impacts
- Further financial support for frontline, health and social care staff living with long covid, including a compensation scheme
- The designation of long covid as an occupational disease
The last point would mean that, if the illness is designated as an occupational disease, and if a sufferer can show that they have long covid as a result of catching coronavirus at work, they may be eligible for a claim for industrial injuries disablement benefit.
It is argued that such measures will not only help those living with and fighting long covid, but will also raise awareness of the long-term impacts of coronavirus.
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, the Shadow Health Minister, said about the debate:
“Without action from the government, the long-term social and economic consequences of this could be grave. Key workers have an increased risk of catching covid. NHS workers in particular are at least three times more likely to contract it than the general population, and this could wreak havoc on our frontline workforce.”
Olivia Blake MP said at the debate:
“I think employers need to treat staff with dignity and respect, and recognise this as an occupational disease.”
The conversation around long covid is in its very early stages and we will have to wait to see whether the recommendations made are put in place for the thousands of sufferers of this chronic condition.
Whether long covid becomes an occupational disease for which a personal injury claim can be made, or even for the purposes of claiming industrial injuries disablement benefit, very much remains to be seen.
By Angeline Holmes, personal injury team