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Nurses with long-COVID must be ‘given time and support to recover’

RCN, and support group founded by nurse, call for help amid rise in number of staff sick days

RCN, and support group founded by nurse, call for help amid rise in number of staff sick days

The founder of a long-COVID recovery support group has called for more help for nurses recuperating from lingering symptoms of the illness.

Long-COVID can encompass a wide range of long-term symptoms, including respiratory, heart, liver and kidney problems, fatigue, mental health issues and stomach upset. The Office for National Statistics reports that one in five people testing positive for COVID-19 exhibit symptoms for five weeks or longer , and around one in ten are affected for 12 weeks or more.

Support group says long-COVID recovery must not lead to self-blame

Clinical nurse specialist Jane Ireson, founder of support group

RCN, and support group founded by nurse, call for help amid rise in number of staff sick days

Picture: iStock

The founder of a long-COVID recovery support group has called for more help for nurses recuperating from lingering symptoms of the illness.

Long-COVID can encompass a wide range of long-term symptoms, including respiratory, heart, liver and kidney problems, fatigue, mental health issues and stomach upset. The Office for National Statistics reports that one in five people testing positive for COVID-19 exhibit symptoms for five weeks or longer, and around one in ten are affected for 12 weeks or more.

Support group says long-COVID recovery must not ‘lead to self-blame’

Clinical nurse specialist Jane Ireson, founder of support group COVID-19 Recovery Collective, told Nursing Standard that recovery from the illness is complex with many ‘ups and downs’.

Jane Ireson

‘I haven't been too badly affected but have still had five periods of sick leave over 2020-21 so far, all related to COVID-19, but only the acute episode was labelled as COVID-19,’ she said.

‘Long-COVID does not have any known treatments, has an unknown prognosis and there can be very little specialist support. We must help nurses to believe that what is happening in their recovery is real and does not lead to self-blame.’

Rise in sick days due to COVID-19

Ms Ireson’s call for support came as the latest statistics from NHS Digital show a rise in the number of sick days attributed to COVID-19.

In December 2020, a fifth (118,690) of the 579,311 full-time equivalent (FTE) sick days taken by nurses and health visitors were attributed to COVID-19. In the previous month, COVID-19 was linked to 17% (90,304) of 524,297 FTE sick days.

‘Stark reminder to government’ to act now on long-COVID

RCN acting general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘The level of staff sickness should act as a stark reminder to government of the need for proper protection and support.

‘The nursing workforce is the greatest asset of the health and care system, and all those who have given so much in the last year need to be given the time and support they need to recover.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it is funding dedicated mental health support for NHS staff, and is investing £29 billion to help address patient backlogs – which have been exacerbated by the rising levels of staff illness.


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