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NHS staff criticise ‘incomprehensible’ scrapping of special Covid leave

WORKERS branded the government’s decision today to cut enhanced Covid-related sick pay and leave for NHS staff in England  “wrong” and “incomprehensible.”

Covid-related absences have been fully paid for all NHS workers, regardless of their length of service.

But from today, staff terms and conditions in coronavirus workforce guidance and access to special leave for the purpose of self-isolation will be withdrawn.

The Royal College of Nursing previously warned that the removal of the guidance means the immediate end to sick pay for new cases of Covid-19 sickness.

The move is a “slap in the face” for “those who worked selflessly on the front line” throughout the pandemic, a statement by campaign and advocacy group Long Covid Nurses and Midwives UK has said.

It said: “These changes take away the financial security for thousands of NHS staff with long Covid.

“The cost of doing so has been huge, particularly for those healthcare staff who now have long Covid.

“During the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, NHS staff were hailed as heroes and clapped every Thursday evening — however, it appears they are heroes no longer and are being abandoned by governments across Great Britain.”

Nurse Julie Taylor, from Yorkshire, who is now working from home due to long Covid, said: “The news that Covid-19 sick pay is going to be removed across the UK is incomprehensible.

“Long Covid is the pandemic within the pandemic; it’s disabling and multifaceted and we need research, treatment and support — not the risk of our income and careers being taken away.”

Clinical support worker Karen, who did not want to give her surname, said: “Colleagues have caught Covid several times since the pandemic began.

“Now we are going to have to consider if we can even afford to be off sick when we catch it, or suffer from long Covid.

“We are the ones on the front line nursing these patients and now we will be penalised for that.

“This government has got this wrong and is playing with our lives.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said that it was withdrawing the temporary guidance “as part of plans to move back to the normal arrangements.”

The number of people in hospital in England who have tested positive for Covid-19 has climbed above 10,000 for the first time since April, rising by 36 per cent week on week.

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