‘I can’t even read’: MPs hear harrowing stories from long Covid sufferers

·4 min read

MPs have heard from key workers left feeling “battle-injured” and unable to work or read after suffering long Covid.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus held an evidence session on Tuesday on the impact on key workers.

The group, including a teacher, GP and ambulance worker, were asked to explain the mental, physical and financial impacts that having long Covid has had on them, and what they believe the Government should do to help.

Dr Eleanor Mountstephens, a GP living with long Covid, said the effects on her have been severe, and include myocarditis pericarditis neuropathy, cognitive issues, and damage to organs.

She said: “The things that made me ‘me’ have gone, I feel like I’m boring and uninteresting and I do nothing, I can’t even read.

“I can’t watch a film, I can’t do anything that requires concentration, I worry that I am being a barely adequate parent at the moment, as I have two teenage daughters, and I am not being what I should be to them.”

She added: “I feel like I have been battle-injured.”

Since becoming ill, Dr Mountstephens has had to isolate several times as she became ill repeatedly, and this has also caused significant mental strain.

She said: “I remember crawling across the kitchen floor trying to get myself a cup of tea, because there was nobody else, and then trying to figure out whether I was going to make it back upstairs to my own bed because there was nobody else.

“This has been an incredibly isolating experience and I’m an introvert and I still feel isolated.”

Earlier this month, figures released from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested 962,000 people in the UK were experiencing long Covid in the four weeks to June 6, defined as symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after their first suspected coronavirus infection.

The others who told MPs their stories were Heather Jones, a teacher; Kathryn Harries, a pharmacist; and Ian Archbold, an advanced emergency medical technician with the North East Ambulance Service.

All four believe that they contracted coronavirus in their workplace and called on the Government and employers to provide more support to those suffering with long Covid and to recognise the diagnosis itself.

Ms Jones said that her employment is at risk due to long Covid.

She has been called into several disciplinary meetings regarding her time off work and was given a formal warning by the school.

She said: “I feel that I am the equivalent of a faulty kitchen appliance, that it’s just cheaper to throw me out and replace me with something newer than give me that time to get better.”

Ms Jones has called for more support for frontline workers who are still suffering from the illness and believes that absence due to long Covid should not be treated in the same way as other illnesses.

She said: “We threw ourselves into the line of fire, and trusted that people would do right by us and that is not the case at all, so I call on the Government to do something to protect our jobs.

“We are valuable, we have proved that enough over the years, please help us now, do not throw us away, we are not worthless and we are not useless.”

Ms Harries was told that she was no longer eligible for life insurance due to her long Covid diagnosis, news which came soon after she had bought a house with her partner.

She said: “If I am in a position where I can’t work or I die, my partner is responsible for the whole mortgage, it’s a lot of pressure and that has been very distressing.

“I was heartbroken when I found out that I got sick at work and now I can’t protect my family, my partner and my loved ones, it’s very heartbreaking and it’s been very difficult.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers and deputy CEO of the NHS Confederation, told the panel that the situation “is just employers now wanting to have more certainty and more guidance in terms of the conversations they’re having with staff, there are a range of circumstances, but I think the default very much is about people who want to come back to work in some kind of form, and we are absolutely looking at how we can redeploy and protect people’s earnings for periods of time in that”.

He added: “But at the moment, there isn’t the certainty in terms of both Covid and long Covid actually, in terms of their impact on people, and I think my members would appreciate more guidance.”

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