GENERAL practice is preparing for an influx of post-COVID patients who will require long-term treatment and support.
The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) is predicting large numbers of people who survived the virus will go on to experience new or longer-lasting symptoms such as respiratory difficulties, cognitive impairment and chronic fatigue. The College said GPs will be at the forefront of helping these patients and called for more government support.
General practice, it said, will be "central and essential" to the recovery and rehabilitation of patients and rebuilding the NHS post-pandemic.
In its new report General practice in a post-COVID world, the RCGP outlines the role GPs will play in dealing with the physical and psychological health consequences of the virus.
A "new wave" of patients are expected to attend practices with these issues, particularly those who have been treated with mechanical ventilation in intensive care.
The College has called on all four UK governments to produce a comprehensive plan to support GPs in managing the longer-term effects of COVID-19 in the community.
As well as calling for more funding, other proposals include a reduction in GP regulation and other "red tape" to free up time for frontline care. Measures should also be put in place to tackle health inequalities.
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: COVID-19 would leave a "lingering and difficult legacy" for GPs.
He said: "There will be a significant influx of patients with lingering 'long COVID' illness, both physical and emotional, and GPs must have the necessary resources and support to care for patients and help them come to terms with and readjust to the aftermath.
"The focus must now shift to greater support for general practice. The four Governments of the UK need to acknowledge the incredible hurdle that lies ahead for GPs and their teams and ensure that general practice is best equipped to meet these significant challenges, so that we can give patients the best care possible in the months and years ahead."