General practice long Covid workload will be reduced by the introduction of local one-stop shops and mobile clinics, intended to prevent people having to go back to their GP practice for multiple different tests, NHS England has announced.
The organisation’s long Covid action plan, published yesterday, said patients will long-lasting Covid symptoms will now have more access to convenient tests and checks closer to home .
The £90m-backed strategy hopes to give all patients an initial assessment within six weeks to ensure they are treated quickly.
It comes as a growing number of patients in suffer with long Covid symptoms. A study published yesterday said that, worldwide, some 5% of people who have recovered from Covid may experience long-term changes to their sense of taste or smell, for example.
The ONS currently estimates that there are 1.6m people in England are experiencing Covid symptoms that last more than four weeks, with 20% of these individuals saying that the symptoms have a significant impact on their daily lives.
This week the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a think tank, predicted that worker absences due to long Covid could cost the economy £1.5bn a year in lost earning. While previous studies had shown that middle aged women are more likely to suffer from long Covid, the IFS study also confirmed that long Covid was more prevalent among deprived individuals.
RCN Director for England, Patricia Marquis, said: ‘Nursing staff know only too well the impact that long Covid can have on patients. While investment in specialist clinics and services will support many, the postcode lottery of long Covid must also be addressed.
‘Nursing staff have expertise to manage chronic long term conditions that long COVID patients need. To make this plan a success, ministers have to recognise this investment must be matched by investment in the workforce needed to deliver it.’
The updated long Covid strategy promises to establish a network of 90 specialist clinics, 14 hubs for children and young people, and to invest in training and guidance to support GP teams in managing the condition.
A community outreach van in mid and south Essex is already seeing patients with suspected long Covid symptoms for booked appointments and walk-ins before referring them for further assessments where needed.
The mobile service offers a range of checks including blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, spirometry and other tests for breathlessness as well as electrocardiography
Dr Kiren Collison, GP and chair of the NHS long Covid taskforce said: ‘Long Covid can be devastating for those living with it, and while we continue to learn more about this new condition, it’s important people know they’re not alone, and that the NHS is here for them.
‘In just under two years, the NHS has invested £224m to support people experiencing long term effects from Covid – from setting up specialist clinics, hubs for children, and an online recovery platform, to providing training for GP teams. Today’s plan builds on this world-leading care, to ensure support is there for everyone who needs it, and that patients requiring specialist support can access care in a timely and more convenient way.’