NHS to offer specialist help for ‘long COVID’ sufferers

NHS to offer specialist help for ‘long COVID’ sufferers
iStock-Marcos Calvo

A £10m investment will go towards clinics that will help patients dealing with long-term COVID-19 health complications.

A number of people who have contracted the COVID-19 virus have been living with long-term complications once the initial infection has passed, such as breathlessness, chronic fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, and stress. These patients will be offered specialist help at clinics across England, with respiratory consultants, physiotherapists, other specialists, and GPs helping to assess, diagnose, and treat these patients.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “Long COVID can have a huge impact on people affected. So, we are doing everything we can to support people who are still suffering with effects on their health. Since May, rehabilitation facilities and recovery services have been available to those who have suffered with the virus and I am delighted to see these becoming more accessible with the opening of specialist clinics right across England.

“Combined with further research and the new NHS England Long COVID taskforce, these additional services will ensure people get the care they need, improve lives and aid in the fight against this global pandemic.”

The announcement was made at the NHS Providers conference by NHS Chief Sir Simon Stevens.

Living with ‘long COVID’

A small number of people who have contracted the virus continue to live with its effects for up to three months after falling ill. The £10m investment will help kick start the clinics across England.

Sir Stevens said: “While this is still a relatively new virus, we are learning more about COVID with every passing week. It is now clear that long COVID can have a major impact on the lives of a significant minority of patients weeks or months after they have contracted the virus. So just as the NHS quickly put in place specialist hospital care for acutely ill COVID patients at the start of the pandemic, now we must respond sensitively and effectively to these new patient needs.”

Five measure to boost support for long COVID patients

The new network of clinics are part of a five-part package of measures to support patients suffering with long term aftereffects of the virus.

The measures include the implementation of new guidance commissioned by NHS England from NICE by the end of October, that will provide a medical ‘case definition’ of long COVID, to be followed by evidence-based NICE clinical guidelines in November on the support that these patients should receive. Secondly, a new online rehab service – ‘Your COVID Recovery’ – to provide personalised support to the patients and allow them to access a tailored rehabilitation plan. Thirdly, the designated long COVID clinics will require each part of the country to designate expert one-stop services to provide joined up physical and mental health care.

Further measures include the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded research on long COVID, which is working with 10,000 patients to better understand the condition, and that NHS support will be overseen by a new NHS England Long COVID taskforce.

The relationship between chronic disease and COVID-19

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