Long Covid: Doctors among hundreds suffering from debilitating condition

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Stacey Poole

The devastating impact of Long Covid on the medical profession has been highlighted by three doctors from the South.

They are among hundreds affected by the debilitating condition that causes everything from heart problems to breathing issues.

Many of those who have spoken about the condition are unable to return to work and those who have, are struggling with the demands of the job and the extreme fatigue.

The effect on the NHS has been described as "completely unprecedented" at a time when doctors are needed more than ever before.

Three doctors, Kaveri Sameer, Victoria Woods and Sarah Burns, are all suffering the debilitating effects of Long Covid with symptoms ranging from heart problems to a constant fever.

  • Kaveri Sameer, Trainee GP

Kaveri says suffering from Long Covid has been "scary". Credit: ITV News Meridian

Kaveri suffered severe breathing problems and was not able to work at all for three months.

She said: "It was quite scary, quite a few times I woke up at night not able to breathe and the first time it got really bad my husband actually called an ambulance and I went to hospital."

She's now on a phased return to work, but going back full time is not an option because of the fatigue and brain fog.

She added: "I had plans for my future as a GP, I wanted to do a lot of things, and I'm not sure I would be able to feeling the way I am now."

  • Victoria Woods - GP

Victoria has suffered with anxiety from the condition. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Victoria was off work for a month. She has now returned, as she's no longer contagious, but she's been left with a constant fever and fatigue.

Victoria says one of the "hardest challenges" has been the "anxiety that comes with having a new condition that people don't really understand yet".

She says not knowing when the symptoms will end adds to that anxiety and she cannot wait for the day when she does not have a temperature and can "function normally".

  • Sarah Burns - GP

Sarah suffered from a period of grief because of Long Covid. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Sarah is still not able to return to work nearly six months after contracting Covid-19.

She says not being able to do the job she loves has had a profound effect.

Sarah said: "Since I've had Covid, I don't really feel my lockdown has ended because I've felt so ill for most of the last few months. It's had a massive impact and it's the most unwell I have ever felt."

However, it is not just Sarah that is struggling - her practice has had to cope without her as it faces unprecedented demand.

She says: "I've been off work now for five, almost six months. The practice, being a GP down for that length of time, and that's just me and that's being replicated across the country across primary and secondary care."

Sarah says the pressures that the NHS is facing are "completely unprecedented" and "it's struggling".

She says with colleagues off with Long Covid, it is just going to add to the "absolutely overwhelming pressures that are facing the NHS".

Credit: ITV News

It is not clear how many doctors are affected by Long Covid, but a support group set up online has already attracted nearly 500 doctors and that is likely to be the tip of the iceberg at a time when the NHS needs medics more than ever before.

GP Kaveri Sameer said: "When we went into the pandemic, we were 43,000 nurses down and 8,000 to 10,000 doctors down. That was before the pandemic hit, before 600 healthcare workers died from Covid, before all the long haulers like me have had to take sick leave. I think the NHS was already on a tipping point, it was already at crisis."