The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting effect on healthcare professionals. Lost jobs, lost income, debilitating symptoms which render even the most mundane tasks near-impossible, and huge barriers to accessing treatment.
These are the repeated stories of UK doctors living with long COVID, in response to a major survey of more than 600 doctors from the BMA. The findings of this survey are highlighted in a recent BMA report ‘Over-exposed and under-protected: the long-term impact of COVID-19 on doctors’.
The survey shows one-in-five doctors with post-acute COVID have been forced to stop work or significantly cut back on their hours. I know many of our sessional colleagues have been affected by this, with varying degrees of support from their employers.
I personally lost my partnership owing to long COVID. This devastating turn of events has seen me move from a partnership to a locum position. However, I now have a portfolio career where I locum as a GP two days a week and have a salaried non-clinical role on the other days which provides more flexibility and allows me to manage my fatigue more easily.
Several of you have contacted me in the last couple of years with concerns with disability, job uncertainty and worries about income and long-term employment. It's a terrifying time but you are not alone.
The BMA has supported many of you with concerns and queries, but we still have room for improvement, and I’m determined we can do better for those who have been suffering. This report is a step forward in the BMA’s campaign for seeking better treatment and support for doctors with post-COVID complications. For those of you facing financial hardship, The Cameron Fund can offer support from financial advisers to grants and loans.
There are also supportive peer groups such as the UK Doctors Long Covid Facebook group, as well as the Long Covid Doctors for Action, which is a campaign and advocacy group representing doctors with long COVID who are trying to pursue legal proceedings for justice and compensation for those colleagues affected by the condition.
The BMA can also support you if you are working with a disability. I personally found it hard to accept I now fell into the disabled category owing to long COVID but found it was helpful to frame it in this way to obtain the occupational health and protection that comes from having a chronic disabling condition.
The effect of long COVID on doctors cannot be overlooked. However, through the BMA's report and support initiatives, those affected can find solace in knowing they are not alone in their struggles.
Please contact us if you are struggling in your role as a sessional GP owing to long COVID. The BMA is here to help you with contractual difficulties and can support you with advice on your rights around phased returns to work, sick leave, early retirement and much more.
Amy Small is a locum GP based in Sheffield. She is the sessional representative for Yorkshire and the Humber on the sessionals subcommittee. She is also elected to Yorkshire regional council and sits on Sheffield local medical committee. She is the chambers lead for NASGP in Sheffield and is clinical adviser for Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland