GP practices will receive £30m to improve diagnosis and care for patients with long Covid as part of a £100m investment to expand care for the condition, NHS England has said.
The funding boost, revealed today (15 June), comes as part of a range of measures to support children and young people with long Covid, including 15 paediatric hubs.
The £30m will go to GPs to improve diagnosis and care for those with the condition, while some of the remaining £70m will be used to establish 15 paediatric hubs and extend the existing long Covid clinics.
These specialist long Covid services will allow experts – including paediatricians and physiotherapists – to treat children, advise family doctors and carers, and provide referrals onto other specialist services.
The funding will also boost online services such as the Your COVID Recovery website, which allows people with long-lasting symptoms to access advice with a referral, it added.
NHSE is also exploring plans to launch a ‘rapid access service’ for NHS staff to access long Covid treatment through GP or occupational health referral.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, is expected to outline the plans at the annual NHS Confederation conference, taking place 15-17 June.
He is expected to say: ‘One of the major health challenges emerging from the pandemic is long Covidwith hundreds of thousands of people predicted to suffer debilitating health issues such as breathing problems and fatigue.
‘That is why the NHS is now going to invest £100m in specialist services, including care for children and young people so that parents know advice is on hand through the new hubs to provide patients and their families with the help, support and care that they need.’
Increase in long Covid cases
Earlier this month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published data which showed that the number of people with self-reported long Covid lasting at least 12 weeks has increased by a quarter (25%) since March.
As of 2 May 2021, 869,000 people had reported symptoms lasting 12 weeks, up from 697,000 two months prior.
Similarly, the number of people self-reporting long Covid symptoms after first having (or suspecting they had) Covid-19 at least one year has also increased from 70,000 to 376,000.
Meanwhile, separate ONS data showed that 7.4% of children aged 2-11 and 8.2% of those aged 12-16 reported continued symptoms at twelve weeks.
As of April, almost three-quarters (31) of the 42 integrated care systems (ICSs) in England had at least one long Covid clinic up and running.
The remaining 11 ICSs without a long Covid clinic were:
- Birmingham and Solihull
- Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
- Hampshire and the Isle of Wight
- Kent and Medway
- Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.