Long Covid patients are struggling to get the care they need with primary and community care lacking the necessary resources, MPs have been told.
The condition – where Covid symptoms last more than four weeks – can be managed in the community or in specialist clinics. But neither pathway has enough resources to help the hundreds of thousands struggling with symptoms, the Health and Social Care Committee (HSC) heard yesterday.
Professor Martin Marshall, Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) council chair, called for better access to community diagnostics and rehabilitation services for patients. This lack is ‘perhaps why GPs say “I’m really sorry, there’s nothing I can do about this”’ to long Covid sufferers, he said.
Between 5 July and 1 August, just 5,737 referrals were made to the long Covid clinics established by the NHS, according to The Independent. This is despite the latest Office for National Statistics figures estimating 970,000 people in the UK are experiencing self-reported long Covid.
Professor Marshall added that an ‘element’ of the poor care long Covid patients are receiving reflects the high pressure currently on general practice. He said: ‘It has been very difficult for general practice to deliver the quality of care we want to deliver.’
This echoes warnings from healthcare leaders in May, who said community and primary care nurses need extra resources to cope with rising long Covid cases. Gail Allsopp, RCGP clinical policy lead, said better diagnostics and rehabilitation were needed as a ‘matter of urgency’.
Also speaking at the HSC inquiry, Ordine Sherwood, co-founder of the campaigning group LongCovidSOS, raised concerns that ‘huge numbers’ of those who developed Covid-19 in March 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic, yet still haven’t been ‘properly assessed’.
Many with long Covid have been told to access online self-help, even though they ‘have symptoms that I feel need investigating but they still haven’t been able to get into the clinics,’ she explained. She added: ‘ There is a huge variability and this needs to be addressed.’
NICE defines long Covid as ‘ongoing symptomatic Covid-19′ – where symptoms last from four to 12 weeks – and ‘post Covid-19syndrome’, where symptoms continue after 12 weeks.