The government has been urged to launch a compensation scheme for frontline workers who are suffering from the long-term effects of coronavirus.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus said Boris Johnson should recognise long Covid as an occupational disease because some people find it hard to return to work.
Symptoms of long Covid include ongoing fatigue, loss of taste or smell, and respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and this week Professor Danny Altmann, from Imperial College London, said up to 20% of patients are reporting symptoms of the disease weeks after becoming ill.
Long Covid is a term to describe the effects of Covid-19 that continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness. Health watchdog NICE defines it as lasting more than 12 weeks.
APPG chair Layla Moran said: “Long Covid is the hidden health crisis of the pandemic, and it is likely to have an enormous impact on society for many years to come.
“When it comes to frontline NHS, care and key workers, they were specifically asked to go to work and save lives while everyone else was asked to stay at home.
“They were exposed to an increased level of risk of catching the virus, often without adequate levels of PPE.”
The group wants the government to follow France, Germany, Belgium and Denmark, which have formally recognised Covid as an “occupational disease”.
Lib Dem Moran added: “They are the true heroes of the pandemic and, sadly, many have developed the debilitating effects of long Covid, meaning that they are unable to return to full-time work.
“The government cannot abandon them now or ever. The least the government can do is recognise their sacrifice by recognising their condition as an occupational disease, launching a compensation scheme, and save the livelihoods of those who save lives.”
A letter, signed by more than 60 MPs and peers, has been sent to Johnson.
Their call has been backed by Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association Council, who said a compensation scheme to support healthcare staff is “only right”.
He added: “After being exposed to increased risk working on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic, there are now healthcare workers across the country living with the long-term, debilitating impacts of having caught the virus.
“We have heard harrowing stories from doctors suffering with long Covid, who are often unable to work, threatening their financial stability and affecting their lives at home.
“The dedication and selflessness shown by healthcare workers over the last year, and the debt of gratitude owed to them, cannot be under-estimated.
“While the government and employers must increase efforts to protect staff now and stop them contracting Covid-19 in the first place, for some it is already too late.”