Decision to end special Covid leave for NHS staff is ‘completely unacceptable’ putting patients and healthcare workers at risk, warns BMA

BMA press release. 

Published: Saturday 2 July 2022
Press release icon

Responding to reports that the special paid leave for Covid-related sickness and isolation will be scrapped next week for NHS staff in England BMA Occupational Medicine Committee co-chair Professor Raymond Agius said:

“The decision to end Special Covid Leave for NHS staff with Covid is completely unacceptable and will put patients and healthcare workers at significant risk. Healthcare workers are in harm’s way, caring for patients who are infected, and this vital provision helped ensure that they faced no detriment if they needed to self-isolate or became unwell with Covid. The removal of this provision will not only force many staff to continue working if symptomatic but may have a significant impact on their livelihoods if they develop long Covid.  

“At a time when we are seeing rapidly rising infection rates across the country, the risk to staff remains very high, yet the Government have removed many of the routine protections within healthcare environments and are not offering adequate protection and support to doctors. Staff under pressure to return to work in order to avoid loss in pay or other sanctions, risk passing on infection to vulnerable patients and other staff whilst those with long Covid who are suffering from fatigue, ‘brain fog’ and other symptoms are at greater risk of making mistakes, mistakes that can result in patient harm.

 “NHS staff rely on this Special Covid Leave so that they can effectively recuperate and return to work safely.  Removing this support is unsafe for patient care and pressuring people to return to work, which ultimately this will do, is appalling and demonstrates once again that the Government doesn’t care about the health and wellbeing of NHS staff.

“Indeed, health care workers are disproportionately represented in the 826,000 people who have experienced long Covid symptoms for over 12 months, and 376,000 that have suffered for more than 2 years1. Under these new rules all of these individuals will be either forced to return to work or potentially lose all their income.

“This Government acts as if the prevalence of covid in society is no longer a concern but for NHS staff in the firing line it is still very much a major problem. Many will have caught the virus whilst at work, caring for patients in hospitals and in GP surgeries, so to then potentially receive reduced or no pay or face sanction if there are repeated absences is a cruel and thoughtless gesture by this Government

“We need a long-term strategy for dealing with Covid, one that is underpinned by adequate research, data collection and long-term investment. This must include improved financial and wider support for those unable to work due to long covid and the BMA supports calls by the coronavirus All Party Parliamentary Group for a compensation scheme for frontline workers.”

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives. 

  1. ONS statistics on prevalence of ongoing symptoms following Covid-19 in the UK – June 2022.

For media enquiries please email [email protected] or call 02073836448.