British doctors with long-term Covid say they have been denied disability benefits | Long Covid

Doctors who have worked on the front line during the pandemic and have long been left with Covid say they have been denied financial support by the UK government, with some left with no choice but to sell their homes.

Months or even years after an initial Covid infection, some people continue to experience symptoms, from fatigue to brain fog. According to the Office for National Statistics, as of May 1, around 2 million people in the UK reported long-term Covid, as the condition is known.

Now healthcare staff in the UK have told the Guardian that although they have been left with severe disabilities following a long Covid, they have been denied payment for personal independence (Pip ), a non-means-tested benefit to help people meet additional living costs. their chronic illness or disability.

A respiratory consultant has revealed they were denied Pip despite reporting to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that they suffered from urinary incontinence, were unable to stand for more five to 10 minutes without rest and that they had difficulty preparing food. , eating, bathing, dressing, or interacting with people face to face, among other issues.

Speaking anonymously as their application is subject to mandatory review, the consultant said he contracted Covid while working in a coronavirus ward in November 2020 and first applied for Pip in June 2021 after developing a long Covid which made them unable to work.

“I thought I had illustrated pretty clearly what my disability was,” they said. “When I got the report, I thought ‘is this about me?'”

The consultant added that the Pip process had been so taxing that every time they went through it, their health plummeted.

“It made me sick,” they said. “Also, this is when I need it the most, because I am very sick now,” they added, noting that they had almost exhausted their savings to fund private treatment. “The next step is to sell the house.”

An infectious disease expert, who is convinced he caught Covid at work, said their Pip claim was dismissed in part because they were able to drive a car – an activity the DWP assessor found to be evidence of “significant physical function” and “substantial cognitive powers”. ”.

The expert, whose claim is also under mandatory review, told the Guardian the car was an automatic, with added assist features, bought after Covid long kept them from driving their manual vehicle.

Although he acknowledged that the assessor needed help with food preparation, bathing and going to the bathroom, the DWP assessor concluded that he did not meet Pip’s requirements.

Whether or not a candidate gets a Pip, how much they get, and for how long depends on a much-criticized official assessment that rates the ability to perform basic daily tasks. Critics say the test is inherently flawed and finicky, and particularly unreliable when assessing fluctuating conditions such as mental illness or Parkinson’s disease.

Plaintiffs win about 70% of appealed cases. It is not uncommon for a caller who has been awarded zero points by a Pip assessor to be awarded full marks in court when the full extent of their medical situation is considered.

In written evidence of an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into the quality of Pip’s assessments, the charity Long Covid Support called the process ‘misfit for its purpose’ and called for it to be revised to reflect the extent and the complexity of disease symptoms.

He said ‘delays and denials’ of benefits such as Pip affected the ‘recovery, physical and mental health and well-being’ of people in the UK living with long Covid.

The plight of doctors left with the disease has already been recognized by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus, which has called on the Prime Minister to long recognize Covid as an occupational disease. Alongside access to the Pip, the APPG called for the establishment of a compensation scheme to support healthcare personnel.

“Thousands of frontline workers are now living with an often debilitating disease after being exposed to the virus while protecting this country. They can no longer be abandoned,” said Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP and President of the APPG.

Dr Kathryn McKinnon, co-chair of the British Medical Association’s Occupational Medicine Committee, said the organization was concerned sick pay was not lasting long enough for some doctors with long-term Covid.

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“The Pip process has been criticized for being overly complicated and, in many cases, time-consuming, coupled with many applicants appealing and winning,” she said. “In terms of future compensation schemes, we welcome the ongoing work of the all-party parliamentary group and we are considering the benefit for doctors of classifying the long Covid as an occupational disease.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “Our strong financial safety net supports millions of people with disabilities and health conditions every year, and it is our top priority that everyone receives the benefits to which they are entitled and enjoys the benefits they are entitled to. a supportive and compassionate service.

“Pip assessments are performed by trained healthcare professionals who carefully consider the impact of an individual’s disability or long-term health condition on their daily life.

“Independent research shows that the right decision is made the first time in the vast majority of cases.”

About Antoine L. Cassell

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