Workers who suffer from five ‘serious pathological complications’ of Covid-19 should be entitled to Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) has recommended.
In a report for work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith, the council said there has now been enough consistent evidence from infection, morbidity and mortality studies to show that a range of complications from the virus could cause “persistent impairment and loss of function” in some people.
These should therefore be added to the list of ‘prescribed diseases’ for which the benefit is payable, it recommended. The five complications are:
- Persisting pneumonitis or lung fibrosis following acute Covid-19 pneumonitis
- Persisting pulmonary hypertension caused by a pulmonary embolism developing between three days before and 90 days after a diagnosis of Covid-19
- Ischaemic stroke developing within 28 days of a Covid-19 diagnosis
- Myocardial infarction developing within 28 days of a Covid-19 diagnosis
- Symptoms of ‘post intensive care syndrome’ following ventilatory support treatment for Covid-19.
The council also argued in its report Covid-19 and Occupational Impacts that health and social care workers should, where appropriate, be entitled to the benefit, as they “have been exposed to significantly increased risk of infection” because of being in frequent close proximity to patients or clients.
The council said in its recommendations that, in addition to the five complications outlined above, the prescribed list should therefore include: “Workers in hospitals and other healthcare settings, care home workers and home care workers working in proximity to patients/clients in the two weeks prior to infection, including social workers visiting health facilities, hospitals, care homes and client homes.”
Covid-19 occupational risk
The IIAC also made it clear that there are a number of other occupations and/or work settings where there can be increased risk of becoming infected with Covid-19, including bus and taxi drivers and protective services.
“However, there are far fewer studies for these other sectors and the results are much more varied than for health and social care workers and do not always show consistent patterns over different waves of infection,” it added.
The evidence for increased risk in further sectors, such as education and retail, was also weaker, it said, “with lower excess risks and inconsistent results over different time periods and between occupations within these sectors”.
The council looked at long Covid and whether this should be added to the prescribed list. It acknowledged that long Covid or post-Covid syndrome could lead to a wide range of persisting symptoms that can affect people’s daily activities, including their work ability.
“However, current understanding of the underlying pathophysiology, temporal course, and predictable effects of the key symptoms of post-Covid syndrome is limited, as is the ability to diagnose the condition objectively,” it said.
“IIAC therefore considered that the evidence is not, at present, sufficient to recommend prescription for this syndrome,” it added.
Council chair Dr Lesley Rushton highlighted that, while there is good data on mortality from Covid-19, there remains “scarce” information on longer-term health problems and disability arising from these.
“There have now been very many more scientific reports on the symptoms, illnesses, and pathology associated with Covid-19, and on occupational exposure to the virus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes the disease,” she said.
“The UK, like many countries, has experienced several waves of increasing and decreasing rates of infection, implementation of a variety of control measures and changing patterns of work. This complex situation presents challenges when evaluating adverse health effects of Covid-19 that can be attributed to exposure to the virus in the workplace.
“The council has identified that there is a large body of consistent supporting evidence showing that, for health and social care workers, whose work brings them into frequent close proximity to patients or clients, there is a significantly increased risk of infection, subsequent illness, and death. The council therefore feels that there is sufficient evidence to recommend prescription for these workers,” Dr Rushton added.