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A new network of ‘Long Covid’ clinics is being set up across England to provide specialist support to people experiencing enduring symptoms of Covid-19.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced yesterday that £10m would be invested this year to establish the network.
“The NHS has got to be just as responsive and agile in respect to Long Covid as we were in repurposing critical care”
It comes as increasing medical evidence and patient testimony is showing that a “significant minority” of people who contract Covid-19 are still feeling effects months after initially falling ill.
The condition has been named Long Covid and reported symptoms range from breathlessness, chronic fatigue, “brain fog”, anxiety and stress.
Speaking at the NHS Providers annual conference, Sir Simon said the new clinics would be there for the “tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of patients who have got Long Covid”.
He added that the NHS needed to treat Long Covid with the same urgency as it did Covid-19.
“The NHS has got to be just as responsive and agile in respect to these new needs including Long Covid as we were in repurposing critical care, ventilators and acute capacity in the first phase in March, April and May,” he said.
He said long-term plans for the NHS needed to be amended to account for Long Covid along with other issues arising from the pandemic including the backlog of routine operations and people needing mental health support.
While stressing that some priorities like achieving earlier diagnosis of cancer and the need for more joined up services would go unchanged, Sir Simon said that the “NHS that comes out the other side of Covid is going to be a different NHS from the one that went into this pandemic”.
The new network will be made up of designated “expert one-stop” clinics in each area of the country providing joined up physical and mental health care for people with persisting Covid-19 symptoms.
“We are doing everything we can to support people who are still suffering with effects on their health”
Patients who attend a clinic will be given a physical assessment to identify any chronic health issues, and a cognitive assessment for any memory, attention, and concentration problems.
There will also be a psychological assessment to determine if the patient is struggling from any mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Patients could also then be referred from designated clinics into other specialist services if required.
To oversee its work on Long Covid, NHS England has set up a new taskforce which will include patients, medical specialists and researchers.
Alongside the clinics, new clinical guidelines are being developed to help health professionals diagnose and treat Long Covid.
The National Institute for Health Research is also overseeing a study that is working with 10,000 Long Covid patients to better understand the condition.
Health and social care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Long Covid can have a huge impact on people affected.
“So, we are doing everything we can to support people who are still suffering with effects on their health.”