Northern Ireland news

Calls for more to be done to address effects of long Covid

Calls for more to be done to address the effects of long Covid
Suzanne McGonagle

THERE were calls last night for more to be done to address the effects of long Covid.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said there is a "significant burden of long-term illness" as a result of the condition, which it believes "will heap more strain on already severely under pressure health services".

A new report from the BMA, 'Addressing the health challenge of long Covid', calls for immediate action to help improve the understanding, treatment, care and support of people with the condition.

It is calling for detailed data collection on the prevalence and presentation of long Covid, increased funding for research and infrastructure as well as support for health professionals to identify and treat it.

The BMA also wants to see improved financial and wider support for people unable to work due to the condition and compensation for doctors and health care workers affected.

Up to two million people across the UK are reported to have the condition from January to June 2022, including many frontline healthcare workers who, because of the debilitating symptoms of the condition - which vary from fatigue through to heart palpitations - are unable to work.

Dr Tom Black, chair of BMA's NI Council, said "the more prevalent long Covid becomes, the more of a risk it poses not only to the health of the Northern Ireland population, but also the ability of our health service to function properly, a service that is already under immense pressure".

"Doctors and health service staff are at higher risk of getting Covid through the course of their work," he said.

"This means needing to take sick leave to prevent the spread of infection and many developing the symptoms of long Covid. This exacerbates the current health service workforce crisis as colleagues have to cover the resulting staffing gaps when delivering care to the most sick and vulnerable in society."

Dr Black said more needed to be done to support doctors and frontline healthcare workers with the condition.

"In light of the current workforce crisis, the Department of Health must do all it can to make sure the right support is in place for frontline health service staff living with the long-term, debilitating impacts of having caught Covid-19 in the course of their work," he said.

The report also calls for a "more consistent provision of long Covid care" so that people do not have to wait unacceptably long times to access treatment.

In Northern Ireland some patients have reported waiting up to 36 weeks for an appointment at a long Covid clinic. In addition, of more than 1,900 people referred to the clinics in the north, just over 600 had had an appointment by June 2022.

"Increased funding and independent workforce planning will be, as with all health services, the key to their success and will go some way to ensuring there is less variation in waiting times for treatment," added Dr Black.

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