Ending special Covid leave for NHS staff completely unacceptable, says BMA

The move, which takes effect from Monday, has already been attacked by nurses, especially as cases and hospital admissions are rising.

03 July 2022

Doctors have added their voices to criticism of a decision to cut enhanced sick pay and special leave for NHS workers in England who are off work with Covid-19.

The move, which comes into effect from Monday, has already been attacked by nurses, especially as the number of cases and hospital admissions has been increasing.

The Royal College of Nursing said the Department of Health and Social Care wants changes to the way Covid-related sickness absence and self-isolation will be managed for NHS staff in England.

From July 7, staff terms and conditions in coronavirus workforce guidance will be withdrawn, meaning the immediate end to sick pay for new episodes of Covid-19 sickness, according to the RCN, and access to special leave for the purposes of self-isolation will also be withdrawn.

BMA Occupational Medicine Committee co-chairman 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 has 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.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “As we learn to live with Covid, we are withdrawing the temporary NHS staff sickness guidance that was put in place at the height of the pandemic, as part of plans to move back to the normal arrangements set out in the NHS terms and conditions.

“This provides generous support for NHS staff with up to six months’ full pay and six months’ half-pay, depending on length of service.”

Royal College of Nursing England director Patricia Marquis said: “This decision is hugely disappointing given that Covid-19 clearly hasn’t gone away, and nursing staff continue to be disproportionately affected by the virus as they face higher risk of exposure.

“We know many of our members are suffering from long Covid, with their lives adversely affected, making them unable to work. Facing the threat of losing full sick pay should they remain off sick from a condition some could argue is an occupational hazard is neglectful and unfair.

“It’s another indication of how little this Government values its nursing staff.”

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.