Practice nurses and GPs will be able to signpost patients to an online rehabilitation service for Covid-19 survivors.
NHS England anticipates that the service, ‘Your COVID recovery’, will benefit the many thousands of people who are experiencing long-term effects of the virus.
Once a patient has been has been signposted to it, nurses and physiotherapists will take the lead in responding to patients’ needs remotely.
In the first instance, individuals will be granted access to a face-to-face consultation with their local rehabilitation team. These will usually comprise of physiotherapists, nurses and mental health specialists, because complications are often centred around respiratory or mental health.
Following their initial assessment, those who need it will be offered a personalised package of online-based after-care. This will last up to 12 weeks and be made available later this summer.
Among the assistance that can be utilised from home are access to a survivors’ community; exercise tutorials with a focus on improving lung function and muscle strength; and mental health support. This may be from a psychologist within an online hub, or via referral into NHS mental health services, paired with information on what to expect post-Covid.
Describing Covid-19 as ‘the biggest challenge in the NHS’s history’, chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘The health service is embracing the best that new technology can offer us to meet the significant level of new and ongoing need’.
It comes as a study launched by the Government this month is investigating the long-term physical and mental health impacts of the virus, to evaluate which rehabilitation services will need to be put in place.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced that this study would be backed by £8.4m worth of Government funding, and include 10,000 patients who have been discharged from hospital following a bout of Covid-19.
However, when shadow minister for public health Alex Norris asked the Department of Health and Social Care if there had been an assessment of the ‘prevalence of patients experiencing Covid-19 symptoms for longer than three weeks’, the response, issued last week, was: ‘Public Health England has made no assessment of the prevalence of patients experiencing Covid-19 symptoms for longer than three weeks’.