Doctors who contracted COVID-19 on the frontline and are still living with the ongoing symptoms of the virus have been left in financial limbo as they struggle to return to work.
The British Medical Association (BMA) found one in five doctors with long COVID had been forced to stop work or significantly cut back on their hours.
Dr Amy Small had been a GP partner in Edinburgh.
She contracted COVID-19 in April 2020 but her symptoms persisted and snowballed.
Dr Small told Sky News: “In the first six months to a year and a half, daily I had awful fatigue to the point I couldn’t eat because my jaw was too sore because chewing made my muscles hurt.
“I had headaches and I had a daily fever for seven months. I still get fevers very easily if my kids catch colds. I had tinnitus, I had awful aches and pains in my body, I was so breathless I couldn’t walk up the stairs without stopping once or twice for many months.”
After six months off work, she eventually lost her job because her condition left her unable to keep up.
“It was devastating, my husband also had long COVID, at the time that I lost my job his pay was halving, my roof was leaking, I had to pay for a kid in full-time nursery and we risked losing everything at that point. I thought we were going to lose our house, we were really facing really really challenging times.”
The BMA surveyed some 600 doctors, with 48% saying they’ve experienced loss of earnings as a result of long COVID symptoms.
The BMA say those medics need support while they recover.
Professor David Strain, chair of the BMA’s board of science, told Sky News: “We cannot afford to have fully trained, very able staff, not able to do the job they’ve been trained for at this moment, it’s a disaster in a health service that is very short-staffed already.
“There are many doctors who’ve actually retired on health grounds – and feel they’re not able to work at all and that in order to be able to get back to work going forward they need to be given additional support – but there are many others who are way too young to have a retirement plan in place but are too unwell to return.
“They need to be able to be given the financial support to allow them to focus on getting better whilst they’re in this position.”
Dr Small moved to Sheffield where she now works as a part-time GP and for a charity.
She says she’s in a considerably better state than when she first contracted the virus but still has some health complications.
“The symptoms were endless like many others and it comes back now and again.”
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Dr Small says this is far from an issue in the past – long COVID continues to take so much from so many.
“So many of us are still ill, many of us have lost our jobs and their houses and their livelihoods, and they’re not likely to get them back anytime soon so this isn’t a past problem, it’s a very live problem which is going to have ongoing consequences for many years.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Sky News: “Long COVID can have a debilitating impact and we are backing our world-leading scientists with over £50 million to better understand the long-term effects of this virus and make treatments available.
“NHS staff are able to seek support for long COVID from their GP or one of the 100 specialist clinics available nationwide. The NHS has also committed £324 million to support people with ongoing symptoms of long COVID.”
Some military personnel and their families have been forced to use food banks as high inflation and rising costs tip members of the Armed Forces into crisis, Sky News can reveal.
An unofficial food bank even exists at a large Royal Air Force base in Lincolnshire, a defence source said.
The voluntary facility at RAF Coningsby – home to Typhoon fast jet squadrons – was set up by an aviator to collect food donations from servicemen and women to support civilians in their local community. But the source claimed it is now being used by RAF personnel too.
Internal RAF documents seen by Sky News – as well as interviews with military sources and charities – offer a sense of the wider impact of the cost of living crisis on defence, including:
• The need for a number of service personnel to choose between “food or fuel”, with some unable to afford to drive home from their base to see family
• One aviator, a single mother, was forced to go without a hot meal for four days because she had spent her last money on baby milk formula
• The volume of enquiries to a key charity from or on behalf of military personnel seeking financial support has more than doubled
• There are individuals who can no longer even afford the price of the subsidised meals at their mess
• A sense of “discontent” at covering for striking public sector workers on better pay deals when the Armed Forces are not permitted to take industrial action themselves
While the documents referred to the situation inside the RAF, a Royal Navy source and an Army source said personnel in their respective services were also experiencing hardships.
The Royal Navy source said the Ministry of Defence was trying to do more to help, such as support with childcare costs.
“But I suspect more needs to be done,” the source said.
“I’m hearing … stories of sailors unable to head home at weekends or over leave periods due to travel costs, also service personnel using food banks or contacting service charities for assistance with debt management.”
‘The food bank is popular’
The UK provides its Armed Forces with a range of specific benefits such as access to subsidised housing and meals – as well as fuel grants in a bid to keep the offer to join the Army, Navy and RAF attractive and to retain talent.
The support is also in recognition of the particular hardships and inconveniences of military life, and the fact that anyone who serves has to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Yet analysis of morale across the whole of the RAF last year by military chaplains revealed that a limited number of personnel were resorting to food banks in the local areas.
An anonymous quote in the report read: “The food bank is popular.”
This was qualified with a footnote that warned: “Food bank use is reported across a majority of units, but nowhere is yet reporting widespread use”.
It continued: “Single figures per unit of families utilising food banks is a working estimate.”
The airbases RAF Benson in South Oxfordshire and RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire “are reporting the highest use of food banks”, according to the footnote in the report, which was entitled Chaplaincy Analysis of Whole Force Morale 2022 and dated 12 January 2023.
Overall, the report found that cost of living pressures as well as failings with military accommodation – such as faulty heating and vermin – were the biggest factors “adversely impacting” morale.
Separately, the defence source with knowledge of the food bank at RAF Coningsby claimed that service personnel had been using the facility “extensively”.
Asked how they felt about this, the source said: “Incredibly angry and frustrated that we had got to the point where service personnel had to rely on charitable agencies just to exist.”
A junior non-commissioned officer established the food bank – which has its own Facebook page – a couple of years ago to support the local civilian community, having been involved with this kind of charitable activity while posted overseas in the US.
According to the Facebook page, the food bank is run by a Christian group called Destiny Outreach Coningsby. It says it offers support to people living in the town of Coningsby and the surrounding villages.
“With the cost of living rising, please look out for one another. If you are in need of a food parcel then please contact us,” it said.
An RAF spokesperson made clear that the food bank was not set up by the RAF for its personnel. However, the spokesperson did not offer a comment on the record about the claim that serving aviators were using the facility.
The Ministry of Defence is understood to regard any use of food banks by military personnel as a “private life matter” and does not have any data to support claims of their alleged use.
However, officials at RAF Coningsby raised concern with Air Command last July about “a worrying increase in personnel seeking assistance and support across all welfare pillars as a direct result of the cost of living crisis”.
The warning was contained in a report, dated 22 July 2022, which was entitled Cost of Living Crisis – RAF Coningsby.
It mentioned the establishment of the food bank.
The report drew on information gathered from the experiences of four focus groups of about 150 personnel and families over a one-week period.
It listed several trends, including “pers [personnel] struggling to afford fuel to drive to work; … pers unable to travel home each week and having to stay on unit, reducing morale and wellbeing; real concern for the winter months where electricity and gas costs will further exacerbate the current situation”.
The paper suggested ways the military could offer relief, such as by increasing the rate paid for fuel use. It noted: “Personnel were having to decide whether to buy food or fuel.”
Armed Forces pay ‘an annual gamble’
The documents and defence sources said pay is another factor creating pressure for the military, especially given soaring inflation.
The chaplaincy analysis talked about a “sense of looming discontent” as service personnel may be called upon to fill in for public sector workers who are striking for better wages.
The Armed Forces Pay Review Body, an independent entity, makes a recommendation each year to the government on any pay increases for the military, which the Ministry of Defence draws upon before making its announcement on what the amount will be.
This should happen before the start of each financial year but is often delayed and any increase in salary is backdated to the beginning of April.
The Ministry of Defence has yet to announce this year’s settlement, though the pay review body has submitted its recommendations and an announcement is expected soon.
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‘If my economic policies fail it’s on me’
One RAF aviator described the process as “an annual gamble on what we may or may not receive”.
Asked what message they had for the government, the aviator said: “Understand that your military deserves to be fairly compensated for the role they play in support of the UK on all fronts … We see through the words and false promises and expect to be treated fairly in return for our commitment to the crown and our country.”
Sarah Atherton MP, an Army veteran and member of the Commons Defence Select Committee, said the government should give the military a 10% pay rise in line with inflation.
“We’ve never had such an unstable global security situation, and we need our Armed Forces to protect us when we want them to protect us,” she told Sky News in an interview.
“We need to make sure they are valued and they feel valued.”
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Do we have an inflation problem?
Stepping in to fill the void are military charities like the RAF Benevolent Fund.
It said enquiries about financial assistance from or on behalf of serving personnel more than doubled last year to 539 cases compared with 2021.
In response to questions about the cost of living and food banks, the RAF spokesman said: “The food bank at RAF Coningsby was not set up by the RAF for its personnel, and the RAF offers a range of support, such as welfare officers who can offer financial advice and access to fuel grants and hardship funds provided by the RAF, and supporting charities and associations.
“More widely, defence has created a comprehensive package of support that includes the biggest pay increase in 20 years, freezing daily food costs, providing accommodation subsidies and saving up to £3,400 per child per year by extending wraparound childcare – this is in addition to wider cost of living support provided by the government.”
Last financial year, the government awarded service personnel up to the rank of one-star a 3.75% pay rise – described as the biggest percentage uplift in two decades. But inflation has since rocketed, with consumer prices in February jumping 10.4% from a year earlier.
More than 400 victims were forced into marriage in the UK over the last year, data shared with Sky News reveals.
A leading charity which aims to end honour-based abuse in the UK is calling on the government to recognise and adopt their new definition of the crime, as data shows offences in England and Wales rose for a second consecutive year.
In new data shared exclusively with Sky News, charity Karma Nirvana said they supported more than 2,500 victims of honour-based abuse within the last year, 417 of them were forced into marriage and at least 82 children in the UK were threatened with being wed.
A new, clear and detailed definition of the issue is being shared with the government on Friday in the hope the Home Office recognise and adopt it, with the minister for safeguarding saying they “will consider whether there needs to be a change”.
Natasha Rattu, executive director of Karma Nirvana, told Sky News: “A clear definition for honour-based abuse is needed because the issues are so hidden and are often misidentified.
“It’s really vitally important that those who are on the front line have an opportunity to identify it, such as police officers, social workers and health professionals, so they can offer the best support.”
The charity also claims policing around this issue has “regressed over the last nine years” since an inspection was carried out in 2015.
It found that only three police forces out of 43 were equipped to deal with honour-based abuse offences – they are now demanding re-inspections of police forces across the country.
In an exclusive interview with Sky News, the minister for safeguarding, Sarah Dines, said the government is “working hard at pace” to tackle the issue.
Ms Dines said: “I’m always concerned if people say they’re not trained enough, and I want there to be more training.”
She spoke to Sky News while at Heathrow Airport where Border Force and police were taking a proactive approach to raising awareness of honour-based abuse and forced marriage with passengers leaving and arriving into the UK.
On recognising the charity’s definition she said: “At the moment the strategy definition might not be helpful, we will consider whether there needs to be a change, but at the moment we do have definitions of domestic abuse and honour-based abuse is just part of the whole strategy that we’re doing to try and improve things for vulnerable people.”
‘I was essentially under house arrest’
Aisha, not her real name, spoke to Sky News about her story of abuse in the name of honour.
The moment her parents found out she had a white boyfriend in South Wales, life was never the same.
“I was essentially under house arrest. I was trapped in the house, couldn’t go anywhere and there was no end in sight. I think that was the biggest psychological hurdle because when will it end? It was terrifying.”
Read more: Raising marriage age in England and Wales is ‘huge leap forward’ in tackling ‘hidden abuse’ Why is Scotland’s gender recognition reform bill controversial?
At the age of 22, Aisha’s parents took her back to India on false pretences. They claimed her grandma was unwell, but in fact, they wanted to force her into a marriage with a man she had never met.
“I was threatened with violence from the local mujahideens. My dad told me, quite plainly, if they knew what I had done, they’d shoot me. My dad was violent as well whilst we were there because he was giving me an ultimatum to fall in line and to do as I was told.”
She added: “My mother had insinuated that there could be even worse retributions, fatal.”
When Aisha returned to the UK after marrying against her will, she managed to escape the constant coercive control of her parents.
Like thousands of women across the country, she is now a survivor of honour-based abuse and forced marriage – some aren’t so lucky.
Shafilea Ahmed – killed by her own parents
2023 marks 20 years since the murder of Shafilea Ahmed.
She was killed in her own home, by her own parents for bringing shame upon her family, refusing an arranged marriage and rejecting the traditional values of her family.
Her brutal death sparked a national conversation around honour-based abuse, but even today far too many victims fall through the cracks.
It’s hoped the new definition could be the beginning to ending this injustice.
The brother of TV presenter Phillip Schofield forced a teenage boy to watch pornography and sexually abused him, a court has heard.
Timothy Schofield is accused of carrying out 11 sexual offences between October 2016 and October 2019 – the most serious charge involving a sex act with the child.
The 54-year-old civilian police worker denies three counts of causing a child to watch sexual activity, three of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, three of causing a child to engage in sexual activity and two of sexual activity with a child.
The accuser told Exeter Crown Court that he felt “emotionally blackmailed” by Schofield into taking part in sex acts.
The complainant said “emotionally there was no escape from what we had to do” and there was a “tremendous amount of pressure and expectation for me to fulfil what was being asked and wanted”.
“I felt that that was why I was feeling forced to participate.”
Schofield “does not dispute” that he and the complainant watched pornography together and that they would “masturbate” when they did so, but disputes “when it started”, according to Schofield’s lawyer Peter Binder.
The complainant told the court he was around 13 when Schofield’s alleged offending started.
But Mr Binder said: “It is his [Schofield’s] case that you have exaggerated the length of time that this practice went on for, that it only lasted 18 months or so from when you were 16 to roughly 17 and a half and that is right, is it not?”
The complainant replied that the lawyer’s claim was “completely incorrect and false”.
The court previously heard Schofield, from Bath, carried out the alleged attacks while working for Avon and Somerset Police as an IT technician.
His brother Phillip Schofield, 60, did not appear on Tuesday on his ITV show This Morning. The studio said he is taking “pre-planned leave” this week.
Olivia Attwood has been forced to quit I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! on medical grounds, less than 24 hours after the launch show.
The 31-year-old star, who rose to fame on Love Island in 2017, was among the favourites to win this year’s series of I’m A Celebrity, which has returned to Australia after being moved to the UK during the pandemic.
During Sunday night’s opening episode, viewers watched as Attwood skydived out of a helicopter alongside radio presenter Chris Moyles.
However, ITV said on Monday she has since had to leave on medical grounds after being told it was “not safe” to go back to camp.
A show spokesman told Sky News: “As a precautionary measure Olivia needed to leave the jungle to undergo some medical checks.
“Unfortunately, the medical team has advised it is not safe for Olivia to return to camp as there needs to be further investigation.
“She has been absolutely brilliant and she’ll be very much missed on the show.”
The first episode of the series saw Attwood and singer Boy George revealed as the two celebrities voted by the public to become Jungle VIPs, and they were both allowed to pick another star to enjoy a slap-up meal with.
Attwood picked Moyles, and after their food the pair jumped 10,000ft out of a helicopter on to a deserted island beach – where they later discovered that VIP stood for “Very Isolated People”.
Speaking about the skydive, an emotional Attwood said: “Oh my God I’m crying, that’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever done, ever. That is incredible. Top 10 experience of my life. Just amazing.”
The pair were joined by Boy George and his VIP pick, TV presenter and property expert Scarlette Douglas, who had to row their way to the beach.
The group then discovered they would spend the night marooned on the island together, before taking on the first trial of the series and then joining their fellow celebrities in the main camp.
It is not clear if Attwood will appear in any of the second episode of the series, which is set to air on Monday evening.
The launch episode saw the 10 starting celebrities enter the Australian jungle for the first time since 2019, following two series set at Gwrych Castle in North Wales due to COVID travel restrictions.
Headlines ahead of the series starting have been dominated by the news that former health secretary Matt Hancock is set to join the camp as a late arrival.
Hosts Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly confirmed there will indeed be two extra campmates showing up in the next few days, and poked fun at Hancock, who is MP for West Suffolk, saying they would be “rolling out the welcome mat for them soon”.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News on Monday morning that he would not be voting for Mr Hancock and that he thinks his fellow Tory MP should instead be “looking after his constituents”.
Asked if he was looking forward to seeing the politician having to eat jungle nasties such as crocodile anus, Mr Shapps replied: “Tempting as that is, I think I’ll probably be focusing on my job as business secretary, and I’ll be off at Cop27 later this week as well, so I fear I might miss him depending on how long he survives.”
He added: “I just think he should be here looking after his constituents, rather than in the jungle somewhere.”
Duran Duran’s original guitarist Andy Taylor was forced to miss the band’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame due to ongoing treatment for stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer.
The British new wave group revealed Taylor, 61, was ill by reading a letter from him to the audience at the ceremony at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.
Taylor had been due to reunite with his former bandmates – singer Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor – but they said he had suffered a setback that would not allow him to travel to Los Angeles from his home in Ibiza.
The ceremony was set to be the first time the five-piece band from Birmingham had played together in 17 years, having last reformed for a world tour and the album Astronaut in 2004.
The group were the first act inducted during Saturday’s ceremony and took the stage by performing their 1981 breakthrough hit Girls On Film.
They continued with a set that included Hungry Like The Wolf and Ordinary World before addressing Taylor’s absence by reading the letter.
Taylor wrote: “Just over four years ago I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer.
“Many families have experienced the slow burn of this disease and of course we are no different; so I speak from the perspective of a family man but with profound humility to the band, the greatest fans a group could have and this exceptional accolade.
“I have the ‘Rodgers and Edwards’ of doctors and medical treatment that until very recently allowed me to just rock on.
“Although my current condition is not immediately life-threatening, there is no cure.”
Rodgers and Edwards refers to Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the pop producers and founders of Chic, who worked with Duran Duran throughout their career.
Taylor added that he was “truly sorry and massively disappointed” he could not attend the ceremony, noting he had even bought a new guitar for the occasion, but that he was “very proud of these four brothers” and “overjoyed” they were accepting this award.
“I often doubted the day would come. I’m sure as hell glad I’m around to see the day”, he added.
Also inducted during the ceremony were Lionel Richie, Pat Benatar, Eminem, Carly Simon, Eurythmics, Harry Belafonte, Judas Priest and Dolly Parton.
Duran Duran formed in Birmingham in 1978 and were one of the biggest acts of the 1980s, with hits including Rio, Wild Boys and Bond theme A View To A Kill. The three Taylors are not related.
The group has risen to prominence again recently, releasing their 15th studio album, Future Past, last year and undertaking a 40th anniversary celebration tour, including headlining the British Summer Time festival in London’s Hyde Park this year.
They also performed at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace and starred in the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Birmingham.
The family of an 87-year-old man were forced to build a makeshift shelter around him using a football goal after he was left waiting 15 hours in the rain for an ambulance.
The great-grandfather, David, suffered serious injuries including seven broken ribs, two fractures to his pelvis and an arm wound after falling over at his home in Cornwall.
His daughter, Karen, and his son-in-law, Trevor, called 999 at 7.30pm on Monday but were left waiting for paramedics until 11.30am the following day.
Operators had told the family not to move David in case it made his injuries worse, forcing them to leave him outside overnight.
Throughout the evening, Karen and Trevor said they made four or five calls to 999, and were given several assurances that paramedics would be with them “soon”.
As it started to pour down with rain, the couple used a football goal, umbrellas and tarpaulin to create a shelter for the pensioner in an attempt to shield him from the elements.
The incident comes amid lengthy waiting times for hospital treatment in Cornwall – with patients saying they have waited outside hospital in ambulances for hours and even days.
‘It was traumatising’
“He was walking to the garage when he tripped and fell over,” said Trevor.
”We dialled 999, but an ambulance didn’t arrive for over 15 hours. We kept ringing and they would say we will be with you soon.
“My wife was a nervous wreck.
”They kept telling us not to move him, so we borrowed a football goal from next door and used a tarpaulin. It was traumatising.”
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David, who lives in the small Cornish village Saint Columb Road, is now recovering at Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske.
A spokesperson for the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly’s integrated care system said: “Like other parts of the country, our health and care system continues to experience pressure.
”The reasons for this are complex, including high demand for primary and secondary care, mental health services and adult social care.
“Our teams continue to work together to support people who need our care and we encourage people to use the most appropriate service – including your local pharmacy, minor injury units or 111 online – to keep our emergency departments and 999 service available for people with urgent and life-threatening needs.”
Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has been approached for a comment.