The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool, which focuses on the treatment and care of neurology and neurosurgery, supports every member of staff with long Covid-19 (Coronavirus) to recover at their own pace, as each case is individual.
Clinicians from the trust, which employs 1,535 members of staff, led an early stage national study of hospitalised patients with Covid who developed brain complications back in 2020. Lead researcher Dr Benedict Michael, a consultant neurologist with the trust, worked with the CoroNerve Studies Group in a collaboration between the universities of Liverpool, Southampton, Newcastle and UCL to study 153 patients during the pandemic.
As a result of this, the workplace assistance that it offers its employees with long Covid focuses on the fact that recovery can be a lengthy process and everyone needs to be supported throughout.
Once a member of staff is unwell and goes on leave, they are referred to the trust’s occupational health team, which can provide onward referral to other support services where available. This team also supports employees when they feel ready to return, and assesses their readiness for the workplace.
In tandem with this, the trust has regular welfare conversations to see how employees are feeling and remind them they have access to its comprehensive health and wellbeing benefits package, provided by Vivup, says Bernadette Fong, HR manager at the Walton Centre.
“We have been extremely fortunate as a trust to have only had four reported cases of employees on leave with long Covid,” she says. “Although, we do recognise that some of our staff who are or have been on sick leave may not want to speak about their symptoms. We have put in place a programme of support to ensure everyone has the tools and resources they need to recover.”
Once employees have returned to work, the occupational health team continues to have conversations about their health with them until they have recovered enough to carry out their duties as normal. They felt it was important to do this as most of the employees that returned to work after having Covid suffered both physical and mental symptoms, including fatigue, brain fog and anxiety about being back in the workplace.
The trust acknowledges that not every member of staff wants to speak openly, so it directs them to its wellbeing and benefits portal, which includes a clinically led employee assistance programme with 24/7 access to telephone support.
“Our portal also offers face-to-face and virtual counselling support with triage and assessment at the point of initial phone call with no waiting times. Plus, an extensive range of online support, including self-help cognitive behavioural therapy workbooks, are also available for all employees,” concludes Fong.