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A new rapid guideline is being developed to help clinicians identify symptoms and best practice treatment options for persistent effects of Covid-19 – also known as Long Covid.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) have today announced they will be working with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCCP) to create the tool for health and care professionals.
“We also want to ensure that clinicians have clear guidance on how best to support patients struggling with this newly emerging disease”
Throughout the pandemic there have been cases where individuals have reported persistent and long-term symptoms of Covid-19.
This has occurred for individuals regardless of how ill they were initially with the infection or whether they were hospitalised.
According to NICE, long-term effects have included ongoing shortness of breath, fatigue, and heart, lung, kidney, neurological and musculoskeletal problems.
It is estimated that there could be as many as 60,000 people in the UK who have experienced the condition which has been termed Long Covid.
Those behind plans to implement a new guideline stressed the importance of ensuring clinicians had “clear guidance on how best to support patients struggling with this newly emerging disease”.
The guideline, part of the “rapid” series to help health professionals respond to the new challenges posed by Covid-19, will seek to provide a formal definition of Long Covid as well as how to identify symptoms.
It will also offer guidance on best practice investigation and treatment options for clinicians to use to support those with the condition across diverse communities.
The guideline is expected to be published by the end of this year and will be made available internationally.
Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said: “There is growing evidence to suggest Covid-19 is a multi-system disease that for many people involves persistent symptoms with longer term impacts on their health.”
This therefore meant it was important that those who needed ongoing support and treatment were “identified quickly and are supported by the NHS throughout every stage of their journey”, he said.
“We also want to ensure that clinicians have clear guidance on how best to support patients struggling with this newly emerging disease,” added Mr Chrisp.
“It aims to support healthcare professionals to ensure all patients with long term effects of Covid-19 can be cared for in the best possible way”
Meanwhile, Roberta James, programme lead for SIGN, said national guidance on the condition would “help to align services with the needs of people who may be at risk of receiving inconsistent care”.
“The guideline will support health and care services with recommendations on monitoring, testing, treatment options and the provision of advice and support for those who are experiencing these long-term effects,” added Ms James.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the RCGPs, said: “Treating or managing any new virus or condition is a challenge for healthcare professionals whose priority is always trying to deliver the best possible care for their patients.”
He stressed the college was “delighted” to be involved in the development of the new guideline.
“It aims to support GPs and other healthcare professionals to ensure all patients with long-term effects of Covid-19, including those diagnosed in the community irrespective of whether they received a positive test or not, can be cared for in the best possible way, based on the latest evidence,” said Professor Marshall.
NICE had been commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement to develop the guideline, whilst SIGN was tasked with the development by the chief medical officer of Scotland.
NICE and SIGN will develop the guideline jointly with the RCGP, alongside an independent cross-specialty clinical group.