Healthcare workers (HCWs) had a greater occupational risk of exposure to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and reported higher rates of long COVID (LC). This has implications for the provision of health care in already stretched health services. This study explored the impact of LC on a range of UK National Health Service (NHS) HCWs, their health and well-being, the effect on work patterns, and occupational support received. This research was conducted through a mixed-methods study, online survey and qualitative interviews. Participants self-reporting LC symptoms were recruited through social media and NHS channels. Interviews used maximum variation sampling of 50 HCWs including healthcare professionals, ancillary and administration staff. Thematic analysis was conducted using NVivo software. A total of 471 HCWs completed the online survey. Multiple LC symptoms were reported, revealing activity limitations for 90%. Two-thirds had taken sick leave, 18% were off-work and 33% reported changes in work duties. There were few differences in work practices by occupational group. Most participants were working but managing complex and dynamic symptoms, with periods of improvement and exacerbation. They engaged in a range of strategies: rest, pacing, planning and prioritizing, with work prioritized over other aspects of life. Symptom improvements were often linked to occupational medicine, managerial, colleague support and flexible workplace adjustments. The study concluded that LC has a significant impact on the lives of HCWs suffering prolonged symptoms. Due to the variability and dynamic nature of symptoms, workplace support and flexible policies are needed to help retain staff.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Cite as

Torrance, N., MacIver, E., Adams, N., Skåtun, D., Scott, N., Kennedy, C., Douglas, F., Hernandez-Santiago, V. & Grant, A. 2023, 'Lived experience of work and long COVID in healthcare staff', Occupational Medicine, article no: kqad117. https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqad117

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 09 January 2024
Was this page helpful?