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Employers Urged to Plan for Long COVID
"The Medical profession knows about post viral syndromes, but the potential scale and complexity of Long COVID is presenting new challenges" says Dr. Greg Irons MBChB MFOM, an occupational health specialist practising in London.
One large study recently published in The Lancet following 1,733 adults in Wuhan who were recovering from COVID found 76% of patients reported at least one post-viral symptom. More than 50% showed chest problems on scans. Other studies have shown many patients had lingering lung problems three-months after infection.
Considering that approaching 4 million people in the UK have tested positive so far (and the true number of infections is likely to be higher), employers are potentially looking at a significant number of Long COVID cases within the UK workforce.
Because the diagnosis is subjective and the symptoms are varied, Long COVID is reminiscent of other chronic conditions, which can also be challenging for employers to manage. Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) and some types of chronic back pain are just some examples.
However, assessing the physical elements of Long COVID can also be very difficult. Physiotherapy can certainly help, although rehabilitation is likely to require care and support from many different medical disciplines. That is not always a straightforward process.
Consequently, rehabilitation from Long COVID may involve a multi-disciplinary approach. That can take time and requires employee consent. Primary Care, Occupational Health, Respiratory Physiotherapy and other services are likely be involved. This may well require significant patience and co-ordination, especially if it is led by an employer.
"Just because an employee has a long-term medical condition, it does not mean an employer has no options" says Magnus Kauders, Managing Director of https://occupationalhealthassessment.com/
"As a last recourse, the capability channel will remain available for employers. However, that will usually require professional insight, at the very least support from occupational health and probably specialist legal support", he continued.
Clinicians are already suggesting that the future support for Long COVID recovery will involve a much more nuanced approached than historical approaches to rehabilitation.
It will also involve cutting-edge tools providing doctors and employers with an objective evaluation of each patient's progress at every stage of their rehabilitation.
Although these tools to support rehabilitation are there, it still may not be an easy path for employers. "It is likely to require physical, psychological, biological and social support, possibly for many years to come" says Dr. Irons.
Occupational Health Assessment Ltd