NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has announced that £10 million will be invested this year in additional local funding to help set up long COVID clinics across England to complement existing primary, community and rehabilitation care.
NHS staff including respiratory consultants, physiotherapists, other specialists and GPs will help assess, diagnose and treat recovering COVID-19 patients reporting symptoms ranging from breathlessness, chronic fatigue, "brain fog", anxiety and stress.
Clinicians have found that a small but significant minority of people who contract COVID-19 cannot shake off the effects of the virus months after initially falling ill. Some estimates suggest that 10 per cent patients may still be experiencing symptoms more than three weeks after infection, with perhaps 60,000 people suffering from long COVID symptoms after more than three months.
A package of measures to boost NHS support for long COVID patients has been announced, including new guidance commissioned by NHS England from NICE by the end of October on the medical case definition of long COVID. This will be followed by evidence-based NICE clinical guidelines in November on the support that long COVID patients should receive, enabling NHS doctors, therapists and staff to provide a clear and personalised treatment plan.
There will also be further development of Your COVID Recovery – an online rehab service to provide personalised support to patients. Over 100,000 people have used the online hub since it launched in July, which gives people general information and advice on living with long COVID.
Further support will be provided to National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded research on long COVID, which is working with 10,000 patients to better understand the condition and refine appropriate treatment.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon 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."