RCN members have voted for the organisation to campaign to tackle the ‘unfair’ and ‘immoral’ treatment of some nursing staff with long Covid who are facing a ‘postcode lottery’ of conditions.
At the RCN’s annual Congress today, held in Glasgow, Paul Jebb, who sits on the Nurses in Management and Leadership Forum, presented a resolution calling on the RCN Council to campaign for nursing staff with long Covid to receive ‘equitable’ and ‘effective’ support.
He told delegates: ‘The RCN needs to be much more vocal about what is happening to our members with long Covid. If we want to maintain the talent and expertise of nurses, they need to be support financially and supported in other ways to support their recovery’.
The resolution said: ‘With long Covid Facebook groups full of alarming personal stories, it is clear the support provided by employers is often dependent on where a person lives.
‘For the nursing workforce, this is particularly unfair and even immoral because a high percentage of staff contracted Covid while carrying out their duties at work and often because of inadequate personal protective equipment.’
The RCN is also calling for the UK Government to significantly increase its investment in long Covid research and care so that patients are treated fairly across the UK, to prevent health inequalities being exacerbated.
Delegates heard that patients with long Covid are suffering under a ‘postcode lottery’ that will exacerbate health inequalities.
The RCN said ‘woefully inadequate’ services are failing to meet the level of demand, with the condition treated as a physical condition in some clinics but as a psychological condition in others. More research is needed to inform standardised UK guidance for nursing staff, it added.
This comes after data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) from June found two million people had self-reported experiencing long Covid – with a higher prevalence in females, people living in more deprived areas and those working in social care, teaching and education or heath care.
Nursing expertise needed
The RCN wants nursing expertise to be used more widely as it said that ‘very few’ of England’s NHS long Covid clinics were drawing on specialist nursing knowledge.
RCN’s professional lead for public health, Helen Donovan, said: ‘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.’
Responding to the discussion at RCN Congress, Dr Alison Twycross, chair of Long Covid Nurses and Midwives UK, said her group is calling for:
- Nurses and midwives in the UK with long Covid to receive the support they need while off sick, when returning to work and/or when leaving work
- The voices of midwives and nurses in the UK with long Covid to be heard at all levels of the health service across the four nations.
- Long Covid to be recognised as an occupational disease across the UK, so affected healthcare workers receive compensation and support.
She added: ‘We like them to recognise the need for more investment by the Government to ensure those of us with long Covid get timely and appropriate care and believe specialist nurses are ideally placed to lead this.’
There are 90 long Covid clinics in England, the latest data from which showed 30% of people waited more than 15 weeks for an initial appointment. There are no long Covid clinics in Wales and Scotland, and one in Northern Ireland.
The Health and Social Care Committee heard last year that long Covid patients were struggling to get the care they need, with primary and community care lacking the necessary resources. The addition of this condition to existing workload pressures has been described as ‘a perfect storm’.