The latest data from the ONS estimates that 2.0 million people are living with long-Covid.
Long-Covid should be “recognised as a disability” amid concerns a postcode lottery over care quality will exacerbate health inequalities, delegates at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual Congress heard today.
Nursing staff are concerned that the diagnosis and treatment of long-Covid varies hugely across the UK, with long COVID treated as a physical condition in some clinics but predominantly as a psychological condition in others.
The latest data from the ONS estimates that 2.0 million people live with long-Covid, which it defines as symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after the first suspected coronavirus infection that were not explained by something else.
The RCN has called the current provision “woefully inadequate” and has called for the UK government to increase its investment in long-Covid research and care significantly.
Mental health nurse Jo Stucke specialising in Covid said, “Some of our patients have really complex physical health problems and their lives have been transformed after COVID. They may be unable to work, socialise and do things that they previously enjoyed doing, contributing to developing depression and anxiety.
During the debate today in Glasgow RCN members applauded as vice-chair of the union’s Trade Union Committee Denise Kelly called for long-Covid to be “recognised as a disability”.
Chair of Long Covid Nurses and Midwives UK Dr Alison Twycross seconds this call by asking for long-Covid to be “recognised as an occupational disease”.
Dr Twycross is also calling for more help and support for healthcare workers suffering with long-Covid, especially when they are looking to return to work.
Understanding of the illness has changed – long COVID was first treated as a respiratory illness which required rehabilitation to repair damage to the body or psychological treatment. Now it is also recognised as a complex, long-term condition.
Increase investment in research.
RCN Professional Lead for Public Health, Helen Donovan, explains: “As nursing staff we see first-hand how life-limiting long COVID can be, especially when patients are suffering with complex chronic symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain and brain fog.
“With over two million sufferers there aren’t enough specialist services to meet the growing demand, and the help patients get varies hugely across the country.
“What’s clear is that the understanding nursing staff have of managing long-term conditions, including pain management, is not being used effectively.
“Ministers must significantly increase investment in long COVID research and support to ensure there are enough services and they are consistent across the UK.”