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Sick pay protection needed for GPs with long Covid, RCGP lead says

by Simon Osborne
28 March 2022

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An RCGP clinical lead has warned that support for GPs diagnosed with long Covid is inadequate, with some losing their careers as a result.

Dr Gail Allsopp, RCGP clinical lead for clinical policy, was speaking at a Westminster Health Forum on delivering effective provision for post-Covid syndrome in primary care and providing support for the workforce.

She warned that GP practices will struggle to deliver effective care for long Covid patients under existing guidelines, and called for additional funding to help tackle a growing crisis.

She said: ‘We need to really think about occupational health and sick leave in primary care.

‘Our secondary care colleagues and colleagues in trusts have had their sick leave protected.

‘But in primary care we didn’t, so some of my colleagues in primary care have lost their jobs.’

‘Some of my GP colleagues have lost their jobs. Their sick leave ended, their sick pay ended and they are now out of work with no on-going funding and this isn’t right.’

Newcastle GP Dr Susannah Thompson told the same event how she became infected with Covid-19 in April 2020 while working at her local hospital’s urgent care centre and went on to develop long Covid.

‘I was a GP, I worked in urgent care and, like a lot of other people, contracted Covid while working with Covid patients,’ she said.

‘I thought I’d get better, pushed myself and ended up suffering massive relapses,’ she said.

She told the seminar she now uses an electric wheelchair most of the time and has been unable to return to work due to constant leg pain, chilblains and brain fog.

It comes as RCGP president Professor Dame Clare Gerada, chair of Doctors in Distress, told MPs yesterday that she had ‘heard tale after tale of doctors and those in other professions who are being sacked because they’ve got long Covid’.

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics showed an estimated 1.5 million people living in the UK have had Covid symptoms for more than four weeks, and 685,000 people had symptoms that had lasted more than a year.

Dr Allsopp also used the seminar to call for a more joined-up approach to tackling a long Covid-related ‘crisis’ in primary care.

Addressing the current guidance for treating patients, she also said: ‘It is really confusing, not only for GPs and clinicians in primary care but also for the patients themselves.

‘I believe we need to work collaboratively across the system and all system partners have got to be honest about the care that can be provided and the limitations within our system.

‘And we need to stop playing parts of the system off against one another because it doesn’t help. GPs and patients are on the same side. The press continues to play us off against each other.’

‘GPs and secondary care or specialist clinics are on the same side. We all want what’s best for our patients yet the system sometimes plays us off against each other.’

She also said primary care would need ‘adequate funding’ to care for ‘the additional needs of patients’ with long Covid, arguing that ’10 minute-appointments are impossible to look after someone with post-Covid syndrome’.

Last year, the BMA called for managers to support a phased return to work for staff with long Covid.

This story was initially published on our sister title Pulse.