The NHS is rolling out a network of more than 40 long COVID specialist clinics in the next few weeks to help thousands of patients who are suffering debilitating effects of coronavirus months after infection.
The clinics will house doctors, nurses, therapist and other NHS staff under one roof offering physical and psychological assessments of those experiencing enduring symptoms.
Long COVID, which is thought to affect more than 60,000 people in the UK, can cause continuing fatigue, brain fog, breathlessness and pain.
NHS England has provided £10 million to fund the clinics, with ten sites already earmarked for the Midlands, seven in the North East, six in the East of England, South West and South East respectively, five in London and three in the North West.
These services will be accessed via referral from a GP other healthcare professional, allowing doctors an opportunity to rule out any other possible underlying causes for symptoms, such as suspected stroke, lung cancers or respiratory conditions.
The NHS has also launched a new taskforce to help the NHS manage its approach to long COVID and produce information and support materials to boost understanding of the condition.
Older people, women and those with a greater number of different symptoms in the first week of their illness were found to be more likely to develop long COVID in a study by Kings College London, with one in 10 still experiencing side effects eight weeks after infection.
“Long COVID is already having a very serious impact on many people’s lives and could well go on to affect hundreds of thousands,” said NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.
“That is why, while treating rising numbers of patients who are sick with the virus and many more who do not have it, the NHS is taking action to address those suffering ongoing health issues.”
According to recent evidence, long COVID can be categorised into four different syndromes: post intensive care syndrome, post viral fatigue syndrome, permanent organ damage and long term COVID syndrome.