A network of more than 40 ‘long COVID’ specialist clinics across England will open from the end of this month (November) to help thousands of patients suffering the debilitating effects of the virus even months after infection.
Ten sites have been 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.
The clinics will bring together doctors, nurses, therapists and other NHS staff for physical and psychological assessments of those experiencing enduring symptoms.
The condition, 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 pioneering clinics, which will see patients who have been hospitalised, officially diagnosed after a test or reasonably believe they had COVID-19.
Patients will be able to access services through a GP referral or referral from 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, with patients, charities, researchers and clinicians, to help manage the NHS approach to ‘long COVID’ and produce information and support materials for patients and healthcare professionals to develop a wider understanding of the condition.
A study from King’s College London has found that older people, women and those with a greater number of different symptoms in the first week of their illness were more likely to develop long COVID with one in 10 still unable to shake off the side effects eight weeks after infection.
More recent evidence is also showing that 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.