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Nurses with long-COVID: NHS urges trusts to redeploy, not dismiss

NHS England tells employers only to dismiss nurses on long-term sick if individuals cannot be found alternative roles, as MP repeats call for long-COVID to be classed an occupation disease
woman looks unwell at home as NHS issues guidance to employers on long-COVID

Fresh call for long-COVID to be classed an occupation disease, triggering compensation rights, as NHS tells employers only to dismiss nurses on long-term sick if they cannot be redeployed

Nursing staff who have been off sick with long-COVID and are unable to return, should only face dismissal if they cannot be redeployed, NHS employers have been told.

But a leading MP said any such job losses were deplorable and repeated the call for long-COVID to be classed as an occupational disease – opening the way to compensation for those unable to get back to work.

Dismissal only when

Fresh call for long-COVID to be classed an occupation disease, triggering compensation rights, as NHS tells employers only to dismiss nurses on long-term sick if they cannot be redeployed

woman looks unwell at home as NHS issues guidance to employers on long-COVID
Picture: iStock

Nursing staff who have been off sick with long-COVID and are unable to return, should only face dismissal if they cannot be redeployed, NHS employers have been told.

But a leading MP said any such job losses were deplorable and repeated the call for long-COVID to be classed as an occupational disease – opening the way to compensation for those unable to get back to work.

Dismissal only when redeployment is not an option

NHS England and NHS Improvement guidance published this month says employers should review healthcare staff who have been off sick for 12 months or more to ‘understand ongoing need and potential challenges’.

‘Consideration of dismissal due to the colleague being unable to fulfil their contract should only be considered if redeployment is not an option,’ the guidance states.

‘With exhausted and demoralised nurses threatening to leave the profession in their droves, everything must be done to prevent long-COVID being a reason they might leave the profession or retire early’

Patricia Marquis, director, RCN England

Compensation and encouragement back to work

Chair of Westminster’s all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said: ‘Many key workers are living with long-COVID after working on the front line of our pandemic response and it would be deplorable that they should be rewarded with dismissal,’ she said.

‘Nurses, doctors and other front-line staff looked after us during the darkest days of the pandemic, it is now the government’s turn to look after them by first recognising long-COVID as an occupational disease, providing formal guidance to employers and creating a compensation scheme for key workers unable to return to work.’

RCN director for England Patricia Marquis added employers must be flexible in supporting nursing staff to return to work where there can.

‘With exhausted and demoralised nurses threatening to leave the profession in their droves, everything must be done to prevent long-COVID being a reason they might leave the profession or retire early.’

Periods of COVID-19 sick pay will be additional to normal sickness entitlements, the guidance adds.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘As with any long-term condition that is affecting an NHS colleague, prior to any capability procedure, all NHS employers should ensure that they have explored all available support options, including considering appropriate reasonable adjustments, flexible working options and re-deployment, in order to support staff to return to work.’

Long-COVID and early retirement from the NHS

Nurses in the NHS can opt for early retirement due to illness under current pension regulations if they are no longer able to carry out their duties.

The NHS guidance states early retirement as a result of long-COVID should be treated the same way as any other early retirement request. Healthcare staff must be considered ‘permanently incapable of their NHS employment or permanently incapable of regular employment of like duration’.

But the guidance does not address financial support for staff who are not eligible for early retirement but cannot continue working due to long-COVID.


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