Will todays parliamentary debate be the first step in preventing people with Long Covid believing they are forgotten and left behind?

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Today, 14 January 2021, there was a call on the government to recognise the new disease, Long Covid as an occupational disease, in the first Commons debate on the condition. The debate on Long Covid took place in the House of Commons and Layla Moran MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus urged the government to recognise Long Covid as an occupational disease, before calling for a Long Covid compensation scheme to be set up for frontline, health and social care staff and key workers. Today’s debate followed Tuesday’s APPG live evidence session on Long Covid reported yesterday.

There is nothing mild about Long Covid. Take Jane. She emailed me to say she’s 32, and was previously healthy and fit. Not your stereotypical person ‘at risk’ from coronavirus. Long Covid has affected her since April. She now has neurocognitive and mobility problems, and has crushing fatigue. Her partner, she told me, “has essentially become a full-time carer”. She’s not unique, she’s not an outlier – lots of people like Jane have emailed me.”

Layla Moran MP, on behalf of the APPG, is asking for a long Covid compensation scheme to be set up for frontline, health and social care staff and key workers. She insists that compensation goes beyond existing sick pay schemes and is specific to those living with Long Covid who are unable to work and should recognise the relapsing nature of Long Covid.

Witnesses who gave evidence at the APPG live evidence session on Long Covid include Dr Nathalie MacDermott.  MacDermott who is struggling with the illness revealed that neurologists believe that Covid-19 damaged her spinal cord. Now she can only walk about 200 metres without some form of assistance.

The 38-year-old said the damage has affected her bladder and bowels too, causing urinary tract infections, and she gets pain in her arms and has weakness in her grip.

Dr MacDermott, a clinical doctor sub-specialising in paediatric infectious diseases in the NHS, told MPs that employers need to understand that Long Covid is a ‘genuine condition’ and that people may need to be off work for a significant period of time. She added: “And I think we need better recognition in the public, particularly the younger public who think that they’re invincible. I’m 38 and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to walk properly without crutches again. Will this continue to get worse? Will I end up in a wheelchair?”

Last month, the APPG published the biggest review to date of the UK’s response to coronavirus – urging the government to adopt a ‘Covid-Secure’ exit strategy. Sixty five witnesses were in over 200 hours of live evidence sessions which were streamed on social media. The APPG received almost 3000 separate evidence submissions in little over six months.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group was set up in July to conduct a rapid inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.  Its purpose is to ensure that lessons are learned and to issue recommendations to the government ‘so that its preparedness and response may be improved in future’. The report was sent to the Prime Minister, who committed at PMQs last year to consider the APPG’s findings.  He is yet to respond.

Today a live Q&A session was organised by Dr Mike Galsworthy (March for Change and the APPG coronavirus). This session started with a summary of the first back bench parliamentary debate on Long Covid by Layla Moran MP. She said it was very early days and there would be much more discussion needed. In the debate there was much interest but not enough time for all interested MPs to speak. Moran reported a lack of research and that Long Covid seemed like a moving target for NHS responses. The APPG encouraged the government to give money to issues surrounding Long Covid and the importance of considering the effects of the illness on children.

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