The implications of Long Covid

Published 27th April 2022

Long Covid is defined as the prolonged illness, more than 12 weeks, following Covid infection.

There are many symptoms, but the main ones are severe fatigue, difficulty concentrating and breathing difficulties. 

At present it is not known what the long- term outlook is for people with long Covid because the condition is so new. 

It is a big problem now and will become an even bigger one.

In the UK it is estimated that 1.3 million people are suffering with Long Covid. The highest incidences are in Health and Education sectors. Covid is currently the cause of 25% of the sickness absence records.

There is an urgent need to address this problem as this will have a great impact on the UK workforce.

Access to support from long Covid Clinics may be slow. Most clinics will not accept referrals until 12 weeks of symptoms and then there is a long waiting list. Delays in getting appropriate advice and support affects the mental and physical wellbeing of the person.

The key message for a successful recovery and return to work is a multidisciplinary approach with support from mental health, talking therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and peer support Long Covid groups and networks.

Occupational health can help signpost individuals to appropriate websites and services early after an assessment. This is likely to result in a better outcome for the individual by accessing support at an earlier stage.

A slow phased return is recommended, and this may need to last longer than 6 months in severe cases. A flexible approach with a mix of home and office working may be more successful.

The individual may need to reset their career expectations and come to terms with a reduction in their level of functioning and to pace their rehabilitation process.

Some useful website links:

https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/

https://www.som.org.uk/COVID-19_return_to_work_guide_for_managers.pdf

https://www.acas.org.uk/long-covid

The CIPD website has more resources for HR managers, employers and employees.

FT 28.03.2022

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