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Covid causing huge rise in Disability

07 April 2021

At least 122,000 NHS staff have Long Covid according to new Office for National Statistics data that also shows that 1.1 million people in the UK are affected by the condition.

Patient care within the NHS is being affected because many of the effects of Long Covid on workers who can subsequently only work part-time, are too ill to work, or need time off for pain, exhaustion or brain fog.

114,000 teachers also have Long Covid, raising fears of stretched Special Educational Needs and Disability support.

And the ONS has found that around 30,000 social care workers have Long Covid, which could affect staffing levels for care homes and at-home care workers.

Further, research from University College London, the Office for National Statistics, and the University of Leicester has found that a third of hospital-admitted Covid patients are readmitted within four months and that one in eight dies, often of associated organ failure. Most often, these are people under the age of 70 and from non-white British backgrounds.

And a report in Lancet Psychiatry shows that one in three people who had severe Covid were subsequently diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric condition within the next six months.

Dr Sarah Burns and Dr Sue Warren, who founded a Facebook support group for medical professionals with Long Covid, recently told the British Medical Journal that doctors with Long Covid feel “intense feelings of failure and grief for leaving colleagues with increased workloads and not personally contributing to the ‘fight against Covid’… many felt angry … and felt abandoned or even penalised by colleagues… A small but not insignificant number have been asked to leave roles due to prolonged sick leave.”

The Guardian newspaper reported that some doctors with Long Covid say that the NHS has not understood their condition and that support has been ‘patchy’. NHS England has said its new network of specialist Long Covid clinics is treating NHS staff with the condition.

DR UK’s CEO Kamran Mallick said: “As Long Covid continues to take its toll on people, so the ranks of Disabled people are swelling.

“Public discourse prefers to term Long Covid as an illness. Make no mistake: an illness which lasts for a prolonged, life-impacting period is a disability. Long Covid is, at best, a hidden disability, with many symptoms in common with other hidden disabilities such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and Fibromyalgia, and at worst, life threatening months after diagnosis.

“Not only is Covid causing mass Disability, but the profession which has been hardest hit by the virus, healthcare, is the one most often so critically needed by Disabled people.

“For too long Government has ignored Disabled people’s voices. It has not been ignoring Covid. As part of that, Government needs to recognise what it means that Long Covid is part of the UK’s mix of Disabilities, and use its understanding of how it is affecting lives and livelihoods to gain a deeper understanding of how Disabled people live across the board. Now is the time for deep listening, deep learning, deep research, and action.”