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Potential to sack nurses with long-COVID ‘immoral and unfair’

Campaigners respond to NHS guidance that states employers review staff who have been off sick 

Campaign advocating for nurses with long-COVID responds to NHS guidance that states employers review staff who have been off sick for 12 months or more

An action group launched to protect the rights of nurses with long-COVID has branded the potential dismissal of nurses battling the condition ‘immoral and unfair’.

NHS England guidance published this month states employers should undertake a review of staff who have been off sick for 12 months or more to discuss any potential changes for a return to work.

Long-COVID nurse campaign group says

Campaign advocating for nurses with long-COVID responds to NHS guidance that states employers review staff who have been off sick for 12 months or more

Campaign launched after NHS guidance states employers review staff who have been off sick with long-COVID for 12 months or more
Picture; iStock

An action group launched to protect the rights of nurses with long-COVID has branded the potential dismissal of nurses battling the condition ‘immoral and unfair’.

NHS England guidance published this month states employers should undertake a review of staff who have been off sick for 12 months or more to discuss any potential changes for a return to work.

Long-COVID nurse campaign group says any potential dismissal lacks compassion

It adds that if redeployment is not an option, then dismissal can be considered if the member of staff can no longer fulfil their contract.

But Alison Twycross, who launched the campaign group Long COVID Nurses and Midwives UK (LCMN), said any outcome that saw nurses dismissed from their job lacks compassion.

‘Sacking staff with long-COVID is immoral and unfair. Nurses were hailed as our heroes and now they are being abandoned. In all likelihood, nurses with long-COVID will have contracted it in the line of work,’ she said.

‘They were on the front line fighting a battle, many without appropriate PPE in the first wave. There is no compassion here.’

Nurses and midwives with long-COVID feel demoralised, upset and ‘set-up to fail’

One nurse with long-COVID, who did not want to be named, told Nursing Standard: ‘I’m currently going through this. I’m being offered jobs like ward manager, which I clearly can’t do. It’s so demoralising and upsetting.

‘It feels like I am being set-up to fail and there is no appetite to try and accommodate my situation.’

LCMN is campaigning for unilateral treatment by UK employers of nurses and midwives with long-COVID, including occupational health assessments, support with returning to work and getting long-COVID recognised as an occupational disease.

NHS England guidance open to interpretation

Dr Twycross, a senior lecturer in nursing children and young people, has been diagnosed with long-COVID herself and said the inequity of treatment by employers among staff with the condition is stark.

‘We know that already there are some trusts offering excellent support to colleagues off sick with long-COVID and helping them return to work, while others feel totally let down,’ she added.

‘This guidance is open to interpretation and could see some trusts looking to dismiss nurses after 12 months rather than supporting them back to work. The inequity is unjust.’

The latest estimates by the Office of National Statistics, from 18 May 2021, suggest that approximately 122,000 healthcare workers and 31,000 social care workers are self-reporting symptoms of long-COVID.


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