Transparency about NHS staff with long COVID injuries and NHS staff personal injury claims for long COVID

This is a very brief post to share information about the paucity of publicly available data on long COVID injury to NHS staff.

This government has been seriously negligent in its handling of the COVID19 pandemic, and a related public inquiry is now underway.

A particularly tragic aspect of the pandemic is that key workers, including NHS workers who continued to work to help keep us all safe, died and suffered some of the worst COVID injuries due to their greater exposure.

For a long time into the pandemic, key workers were not supplied with suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).

One ambulance worker shared this photograph of the wholly inadequate PPE that ambulance staff were expected to wear in the back of cramped ambulances, at close quarters to COVID infected patients:

This was revealed by the Liverpool Echo, so the disclosure most likely related to North West Ambulance Service.

As well as the serious COVID injuries sustained by key workers such as NHS staff, due to the major mishandling of the pandemic, there was also a cost in added workforce shortage and pressure.

Notwithstanding the fact that NHS staff were injured because they were not adequately protected from contracting COVID19, the government compounded its failures by withdrawing its national guidelines which made special provision for staff sick leave and pay, in respect to COVID.

This is an example of the reaction from the trade press:

Long Covid: Government is ‘failing’ NHS staff

Grace Pritchard a member of the public did a great public service last year by making FOI requests to NHS trusts and universities, via the What Do They Know website. She asked about statistics on staff who developed long COVID.

Her requests and the responses to these requests, are collected at this page on the website:

List of FOI requests made by Grace Pritchard on long COVID affecting staff at NHS trusts and universities

Disturbingly, some NHS trusts failed to respond at all to Grace Pritchard, including powerful organisations such as Imperial Healthcare, Barts and University Hospitals Birmingham.

Some NHS trusts replied, equally disturbingly, that they did not hold the requested data, implying that no one was actively tracking harm suffered by their staff. For example, St Georges, East of England Ambulance, Sheffield Health and Social Care (the home of Tim Kendall, the NHS mental health Tsar).

It is possible to attempt a rough estimate based on ONS’ data on the prevalence of long COVID.

Table 5 of the September 2022 ONS spreadsheet gives data on the percentage of people in the “health care sector” affected by long COVID as 3.76%. This figure is an estimate based on scaling up a sample.

But this is not the same as specific, precise data on how NHS staff have been affected by long COVID.

I therefore asked NHS Resolution, which handles staff personal injury claims in the NHS, if it held national data on long COVID personal injury claims by NHS personnel.

NHS Resolution advised that it could not answer without a manual search of case files, because it has no specific code for long COVID (which could be used to run a computer analysis).

“We are unable to answer this request, as we do not have an injury code for Long Covid.”

According to NHS Resolution, to answer my question based on a manual search would reportedly exceed the legal cost limits for FOIs:

“We are unable to provide this information without interrogating individual claims files. Although NHS Resolution may hold some information relating to claims such as what you have requested (England only claims), due to the way claims are recorded on our claims database, we will not be able to identify such specific cases. It might be helpful to explain that when claims are notified to NHS Resolution they are categorised against pre-defined cause, injury and speciality codes. Unfortunately, we do not have a code that would allow us to readily extract claims where the injury is due to long COVID. Therefore, while there may be information held in our records, we are not readily able to identify the relevant files by searching the database. To do so would involve a manual review of all cases to identify the claims where the injury is due to long COVID. We estimate we would need to spend approximately 10 minutes reviewing each claims file to identify and extract the relevant information. We would need to review hundreds of claims.”

This is the full response by NHS Resolution:

NHS Resolution FOI response on NHS staff personal injury claims for long COVID Ref 5605 14 October 2022

I have accordingly asked NHS Resolution for more details on how cases of long COVID might be coded under its systems, and I have narrowed the original scope of my request for data on long COVID claims to just three NHS trusts.

It is a concern that there is apparently no central record, at least by NHS Resolution, of the number of NHS staff who are taking legal action for COVID injuries.

I have now asked the Department of Health and Social Care whether any public body holds central data on numbers of NHS staff long COVID cases and personal injury claims, and if the Department holds any of this data, for disclosure of the data itself.

UPDATE 12 November 2022

The DHSC has responded. It does not hold data on NHS staff affected by Long COVID. It has no intention of collating this data. I have sent the DHSC’s response to the UK COVID public inquiry:

The Department of Health holds no data on long COVID in NHS staff and has no intention of collating this data

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s