The impact of long-term COVID-19 on the nursing workforce

Susan Masters 23 Sep 2020

Discussing the impact on ongoing COVID-19 symptoms on the nursing workforce.

The long-term course of COVID-19 is as yet unknown. But ‘Long COVID’ also known as ‘Post-Acute, ‘Chronic’ or ‘Long Haul’ COVID, are terms being used to describe illness in people who have either recovered from COVID-19 but are still report lasting effects of the infection or have had the usual symptoms for far longer than would be expected.

The RCN is becoming increasingly concerned at the anecdotal reports of the impact that Long COVID is having on the nursing workforce, and the wider impact on the public and patients. Whilst there is as yet limited empirical research on the issue, we are aware that it is now being actively discussed within the scientific and research community.

As this is a relatively new phenomena, the RCN is calling for more research to be carried out Long COVID, to understand its impact on the workforce and its wider public health implications.

The RCN has been working at all levels to support and represent the nursing workforce who have experienced the impact of Long COVID. Our position is clear - we expect employers to support staff who are suffering from long Covid by:

  • continuing to pay staff COVID sick pay, including enhancements, including where staff experience relapses and repeated periods of leave. Any absences which are COVID-related should also not count towards any triggers for the management of sickness absence.
  • providing long term sick pay and leave arrangements to provide nursing staff and their families the peace of mind that their incomes will be protected should they become ill with COVID as a result of their work, including any long term impact.
  • making sure any arrangements provide reassurance to staff that they will be supported when there is a resurgence or secondary surges in incidents over the winter period
  • paying full COVID sick pay to staff regardless of their length of service, including for new starters, returners and student nurses on paid placements who responded to the requests to help manage the pandemic.

Through the NHS Staff Council, the RCN is also seeking confirmation from the Department of Health and Social Care and health departments across the UK and NHS employers that these arrangements will be maintained.

The RCN is also calling on arrangements to be put in place to support staff returning from COVID related sickness during a phased return to work, including:

  • the completion of risk assessments
  • considering whether staff can work from home

Recently NHS Staff Council has agreed joint guidance on phased return with NHS Employers. You can read more information on the NHS Employers website.

And if you need any information or support from the RCN relating to COVID-19, visit our website or contact us.

Susan Masters

Susan Masters

RCN Director of Nursing, Policy and Public Affairs

Susan has been in her current role since December 2019. She has been a registered nurse for 29 years. Susan trained as a Registered General Nurse at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, qualifying in 1991, staying there post-graduation to work on acute wards and the coronary care unit.

Susan later moved to Great Ormond Street Hospital to become dual trained as a Registered Sick Children's Nurse. Returning to the South West region, Susan studied health visiting at the University of the West of England and, after qualifying, worked as a health visitor for many years in Somerset.

She had many years' experience in senior leadership roles, including regional roles and as an associate director of nursing and quality in a South West clinical commissioning group before joining the RCN in February 2018 taking up the role of regional director for the South West region. She is a graduate of the NHS Leadership Academy, gaining an MSc in Senior Leadership.

Page last updated - 13/05/2021