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Risks of COVID-19 by occupation in NHS workers in England

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Diana A. van der Plaat, Ira Madan, David Coggon, Martie van Tongeren, Rhiannon Edge, Rupert Muiry, Vaughan Parsons, Paul Cullinan

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-183
Number of pages8
JournalOccupational and Environmental Medicine
Issue number3
Published1 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: Funding This study was funded by a grant from the COLT Foundation. Award reference: N/A Publisher Copyright: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022.

King's Authors


Objective: To quantify occupational risks of COVID-19 among healthcare staff during the first wave (9 March 2020-31 July 2020) of the pandemic in England. Methods: We used pseudonymised data on 902 813 individuals employed by 191 National Health Service trusts to explore demographic and occupational risk factors for sickness absence ascribed to COVID-19 (n=92 880). We estimated ORs by multivariable logistic regression. Results: With adjustment for employing trust, demographic characteristics and previous frequency of sickness absence, risk relative to administrative/ clerical occupations was highest in 'additional clinical services' (care assistants and other occupations directly supporting those in clinical roles) (OR 2.31 (2.25 to 2.37)), registered nursing and midwifery professionals (OR 2.28 (2.23 to 2.34)) and allied health professionals (OR 1.94 (1.88 to 2.01)) and intermediate in doctors and dentists (OR 1.55 (1.50 to 1.61)). Differences in risk were higher after the employing trust had started to care for documented patients with COVID-19, and were reduced, but not eliminated, following additional adjustment for exposure to infected patients or materials, assessed by a job-exposure matrix. For prolonged COVID-19 sickness absence (episodes lasting >14 days), the variation in risk by staff group was somewhat greater. Conclusions: After allowance for possible bias and confounding by non-occupational exposures, we estimated that relative risks for COVID-19 among most patient-facing occupations were between 1.5 and 2.5. The highest risks were in those working in additional clinical services, nursing and midwifery and in allied health professions. Better protective measures for these staff groups should be a priority. COVID-19 may meet criteria for compensation as an occupational disease in some healthcare occupations.

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