Some GPs have lost their partnership status while struggling to recover from persisting symptoms of Covid-19.
Pulse has spoken to two affected former partners, who both had Covid last spring and were removed from their partnerships in the autumn.
They are now calling for more support for practices and affected GPs.
One of the GPs who spoke to Pulse, who still suffers from ‘cognitive impairment, fatigue, breathlessness, chest pain, anosmia and joint pains’, was removed from her partnership after 18 years.
The GP, who is based in South West England, was hospitalised with Covid in April last year after catching Covid in March.
She told Pulse: ‘My partners chose to invoke the option in the partnership agreement to remove me from the partnership on the six-month anniversary, in late September.
‘I’m still not working, as I am not yet cognitively recovered enough to do so.’
She told Pulse the cognitive impairment remains ‘to a degree that I feel unsafe to provide medical care’.
‘My own GP and neurologist agree, and I’m currently having further assessments with the neuro-psychology team,’ she said.
The GP also claimed that she struggled to secure income support when she first lost her partnership status due to a disagreement with her income protection insurer, however says this has since been resolved.
However she added that she does not hold a grudge against her former partners, despite feeling ‘sad’ about the outcome.
She said: ‘I suspect my ex-partners did what they did because they felt it was their best option in a bad situation, it wasn’t done with malice… I suspect they did what they thought was best.’
Another GP, based in Scotland, lost her partnership in October.
The GP was unable to work due to experiencing lingering symptoms such as breathlessness, tachycardia, extreme fatigue, brain fog and daily temperatures.
She has now recovered sufficiently to be able to do locum work.
In August, an occupational health review recommended a phased return to work when she had been functioning normally at home for two weeks. However, she describes that phased return as ‘protracted’ and felt that her partners ‘panicked’ upon seeing it.
The GP added to Pulse: ‘My partners were worried I would get a diagnosis of ME and be unable to fulfil my partnership duties long-term.
‘My partnership agreement had a six-month cut-off clause and if I was unable to fulfil my partnership duties over a six-month period, the others could vote to remove me from the practice, and that’s what they did.
‘It’s a shame, because we were very close friends within that partnership – I’d been there for 10 years.’
Following her ordeal the GP feels that GP partnerships should receive reimbursement to keep on GPs and staff who are ill with long Covid.
‘I would like to see GPs treated in the same way [as doctors directly employed by the NHS] and afford GP partnerships better reimbursement to relieve some of the pressure from having a sick colleague,’ she said.
She also thinks GP partners ‘need to look more at what their colleagues are capable of and not focus on what they cannot do’.
‘Clinical work may be off the table for a while with long Covid, however much non-clinical work potentially could be done that could take the paperwork burden away from others.
‘We need to think laterally about how to support each other. This is after all, a blip in a 40-year career, and for some, a blip in a 35-year partnership,’ she said.
Pulse approached NHS England for comment.
NICE has determined that long Covid can affect ‘any system of the body’, including cardiovascular, neurological, musculoskeletal and haematological, for more than 12 weeks.