Healthcare Workers Neglected during Covid Pandemic

Nick Harris
Head of Travel Law & Holiday Claims

The UK Government recently changed the law to make it mandatory for care home workers to get both doses of the Covid vaccine if they want to carry on working in a care home. The rule applies to all care home staff in England and Wales, unless they’re exempt on medical grounds, and they’ve got a deadline of 11 November to get their second jab.

While some may welcome this, others are criticising the Government’s decision because of how care home workers were treated during the peak of the pandemic last year. Many felt as though they were abandoned when it came to personal protection equipment (PPE) and their health was put at risk as a result. 

Care home workers struggled with a shortage of PPE, including masks, and many chose to isolate in the care homes with their residents to minimise the risk of spreading the virus to them.

But this wasn’t enough to stop the spread of infection. As hospital beds became limited, many coronavirus patients were sent back to care homes, despite still being infectious. The effects of this were devastating – according to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), over 39,000 care home residents died of Covid-19 between 10 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, and it left staff members vulnerable and exposed. It’s likely that both the lack of PPE for staff and Covid patients returning home caused this staggering figure.

Covid Masks failed Safety Standards

Not only was there a shortage of PPE, but a recent article by the BBC reported that a million masks, supplied to the NHS as being high grade, “did not meet the correct levels of protection.” They also had fake CE marks on them.

During the first wave, these masks were worn by staff working in intensive care units. Tests by the British Standards Institution in June found that the masks passed the lower FFP2 standard but not the recommended higher FFP3 standard. Talking of the findings, the British Medical Association (BMA) said it was “scandalous” that front-line workers’ health was put at risk.

How have Healthcare Staff been affected?

Many hospital and care home workers ended up contracting Covid-19 back in 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic but we’re now starting to see that several are continuing to suffer from long Covid.

In April 2021, it was reported that at least 122,000 health staff were still suffering with long Covid. This has caused a huge strain on the NHS, as affected staff members are too unwell to perform their job, can only work part time, or need time off because of pain, exhaustion and “brain fog” – a symptom of long Covid which causes difficulty thinking.

Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said “Dealing with long Covid will be a significant challenge [for the NHS] for months and most likely years to come.”

For healthcare professionals struggling with long Covid, not only is their physical health being affected, but many are feeling “angry that they had, almost certainly, contracted Covid-19 in their workplaces,” coupled with “intense feelings of failure and grief for leaving colleagues with increased workloads.”

Did you catch Long Covid from work?

If you’re a healthcare professional working in a hospital or care home, and you believe you and your colleagues contracted Covid-19 at work because you weren’t given proper protection from the virus, we’re investigating whether you can claim compensation.

No one’s health should be put at risk while at work, especially when you need the right PPE to keep yourself and those you’re caring for safe.

We understand that it can be difficult to know if you caught Covid-19 at work, and that there’s still a lot to learn about coronavirus and how it affects us in the long term. If you’re experiencing symptoms of long Covid, it’s important to keep an eye on your physical and mental wellbeing and raise any concerns you have with your employer.

If you’d like any advice, please get in touch.

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