PATIENTS with long Covid will have easier access to health tests as part of an action plan designed to reduce GP workloads.
Specialist long Covid clinics will now be able to send people for tests at local one stop shops and mobile clinics, rather than people going back to their GP practice for multiple different tests.
The ambitious plan unveiled by NHS England includes a pledge to give patients an initial assessment within six weeks, with the help of an additional £90 million investment.
Latest estimates from the ONS suggest around 1.6 million people in England are experiencing ongoing Covid symptoms lasting more than four weeks, with around one in five saying it has a significant impact on their daily life.
NHS England said progress is already being made in improving long Covid services, with £224 million spent so far. This includes the opening of 90 specialist long Covid clinics, 14 hubs for children and young people, and investment in training and guidance to support GP teams in managing the condition.
Dr Kiren Collison, GP and chair of the NHS long Covid taskforce, said: “[This] plan builds on this world-leading care, to ensure support is there for everyone who needs it, and that patients requiring specialist support can access care in a timely and more convenient way.”
The plan has received a cautious welcome from health leaders.
Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: “Already our members have described referrals to long Covid clinics as being swamped by demand so with waves continuing, they are worried about how their teams will be able to keep up and ensure people aren’t left waiting after their initial referral.
“In the face of a workforce crisis and huge ambitions to clear the waiting lists, health leaders will be wondering how staffing these specialist clinics can be sustained”.
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