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Long Covid sufferers have ‘disability’, senior doctor tells inquiry

Dr Ian Frayling told the inquiry about his experience with Long Covid
Dr Ian Frayling told the inquiry about his experience with Long Covid

Long Covid sufferers should be allowed to do “what they can, when they can” at work, a senior doctor has told the Covid Inquiry.

Dr Ian Frayling, a senior cancer pathologist who has suffered from Long Covid since he contracted the virus in March 2020, told the inquiry the condition is a “disability” and should be treated as such by employers.

His comments were part of an impact video sharing the real-life stories of pandemic victims, shown at the start of the Covid Inquiry in Wales, which got underway on Tuesday.

Dr Frayling, who is also a trustee of the Long Covid Support charity, told the inquiry: “I’ve tried to write down some of my experiences as a very senior doctor in the hope that people will listen and not repeat the errors of the past.

“Being someone who suffered Long Covid from before it had a name and still suffers, we must plan in the future for the long term effects of pathogens and expect them.”

He told the inquiry the physical pain of Long Covid – “the pain in the muscles, the pains in the chest” – is “nothing compared to the psychological pain.”

“The pain of hearing that people are being dismissed, people aren’t being listened to, and the majority of working-age adults who have Long Covid are struggling to keep jobs down, they’ve lost their jobs.

“It is a disability, there’s no ifs, buts or maybes about that. You are disabled and therefore your employment and your workplace should be adapted to do what you can when you can.

“That’s a part of the hope that we learn and we plan and we act on it and we do it better – please,” he added.

The risks of developing Long Covid have been contested by scientists, with analysis from researchers in the UK, Denmark and the US last year suggesting “major flaws” in the body of literature on the condition have probably exaggerated the true threat of developing it.

Upsetting material

Dr Frayling was one of several Welsh people who contributed their stories of pandemic suffering to the inquiry’s impact video, which was given a content warning for “upsetting material”.

Some spoke of mental health issues during lockdown and delays to cancer appointments, while others recalled the distress of not being able to attend funerals for loved ones they had lost.

While these victims will not be providing formal evidence to this module, which scrutinises political decision-making during the pandemic, inquiry chair Baroness Hallett has assured them their stories will be taken into consideration.

It was confirmed that the first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, will appear before the inquiry in the coming weeks.

Former Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething will also be giving evidence to the latest section of the inquiry, taking place in Cardiff.

Dr Frank Atherton, the chief medical officer; Dr Robert Orford, the chief scientific adviser for health; and Andrew Goodall, chief executive of the NHS in Wales, will also appear.