Healthcare

Government set to cut enhanced sick pay for NHS staff off work with Covid



The government is set to cut special sick pay for NHS staff who are off work with Covid from next week, The Independent has learnt.

As Covid cases soar in the community, the Department of Health and Social Care is set to announce an end to the enhanced pay arrangements provided during the pandemic, meaning that staff who go off sick with either Covid or long Covid will be subject to normal sick-pay rules.

Nursing leaders have hit back, arguing that the move is “neglectful and unfair” for NHS staff, who are disproportionately likely to be affected by Covid.

In response to the pandemic, the government announced special arrangements for staff to have pay if they were isolating from Covid and a full 12 months pay if they had long Covid.

Arrangements will now return to normal NHS sick rules which give workers six months full pay and six months half pay.

A senior healthcare source told The Independent: “They have agreed to end the arrangement for new people from next week, and then have an implementation period where people who are currently off on this sort of scheme, revert back to normal sick pay entitlement from September.”

The Independent understands the return to old arrangements will apply to anyone experiencing a new Covid or Long covid episode from 7 July.

The news comes as Covid infections rose by almost 30 per cent in the last week with an average of 285,507 people being infected with the virus each day.

This weekThe Independent revealed hospitals across the country have made u-turns on decisions made just weeks ago to ditch mask wearing due to the risk in Covid cases.

The Royal College Nursing’s director for England 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. NHS pay is barely enough to make ends meet at the best of times, and this will be another blow for some struggling with COVID-19-related health issues.”

Earlier this month The Independent reported findings from The Pharmaceutical Journal revealing 10,000 NHS staff have been off sick with Long Covid during the pandemic.

The Office for National Statistics has previously revealed health and care workers have the highest rates of long Covid which experts have said suggests increased occupation risk from the virus.

Dr Elaine Maxwell, from Long Covid Support, warned the plans to return to normal sick pay arrangements for staff with long Covid were “short-sighted.”

She said: “I think this is really short sighted we can see for many people long Covid lasts longer than a year. Long Covid data up until beginning of May this year showed that 376,000 People have been ill for over two years. So that must have meant they were infected in the first wave. Given that the subsequent waves were much bigger in terms of numbers of people infected, then we can see an increasing number of people who will have long Covid for over six months and a year.

“NHS is in a recruitment crisis already and so to lose a large number of people who are of working age, and who may well recover from long Covid in the longer term, is an economic disaster.”

In 2022-23 the responsibility to fund this fell to NHS trusts, whereas previously employers received national funding to support it.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive for NHS Employers, part of the NHS Confederation, said: “This is a sensible step given where we are now in relation to the pandemic. The NHS provides very fair entitlement to sick pay and organisations will be explaining to staff the implications of this decision based on their individual circumstances.”

“However, as we learn to live with Covid over the long term, and as more people are diagnosed with long Covid, healthcare leaders would urge the government to look at the broader package of support available to people who remain unable to work.”

NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care were approached for comment.



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