Speaking at the NHS Providers conference, NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens has outlined the five core elements of a package of measures designed to boost NHS support for Covid-19 and long-term coronavirus patients – sometimes referred to as Long Covid.
He explained: “Just as the NHS quickly put in place specialist hospital care for acutely ill Covid patients at the start of the pandemic, now we must respond sensitively and effectively to these new patient needs.”
The five core aspects of the package are:
1. New guidance commissioned by NHS England from NICE by the end of October on the medical ‘case definition’ of long-term Covid. This will include patients who have had Covid who may not have had a hospital admission or a previous positive test. It will be followed by evidence-based NICE clinical guidelines in November on the support that Long Covid patients should receive, enabling NHS doctors, therapists and staff to provide a clear and personalised treatment plan. This will include education materials for GPs and other health professionals to help them refer and signpost patients to the right support.
2. The ‘Your Covid Recovery’ – an online rehab service to provide personalised support to patients. Over 100,000 people have used the online hub since it launched in July, which gives people general information and advice on living with Long Covid. Phase 2 of the digital platform being developed this Autumn by the University of Leicester will see people able to access a tailored rehabilitation plan. This will enable patients to set goals for their mental and physical health, provide peer to peer support through social community forums, offer an ‘ask the expert’ facility for patients to contact their local rehab service, and allow patients to be monitored by their local rehab teams to ensure that they are on track with their care.
This service will be available to anyone suffering symptoms that are likely due to Covid-19, regardless of location or whether they have spent time in hospital. It is most likely that patients will access the service through their GP, but they could also be referred through another healthcare professional following assessment.
3. Designated Long Covid clinics. This will involve each part of the country designating expert one-stop services in line with an agreed national specification. Post-Covid services will provide joined up care for physical and mental health, with patients having access to:
- A physical assessment, which will include diagnostic testing, to identify any potential chronic health issues.
- A cognitive assessment, to assess any potential memory, attention, and concentration problems.
- A psychological assessment, to see if someone is suffering potentially from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or another mental health condition.
Patients could also then be referred from designated clinics into specialist lung disease services, sleep clinics, cardiac services, rehabilitation services, or signposted into IAPT and other mental health services.
4. National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded research on long Covid which is working with 10,000 patients to better understand the condition and refine appropriate treatment.
5. The NHS’s support will be overseen by a new NHS England Long Covid taskforce which will include Long Covid patients, medical specialists and researchers.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock added: “Long covid can have a huge impact on people affected.
“So, we are doing everything we can to support people who are still suffering with effects on their health.
“Since May, rehabilitation facilities and recovery services have been available to those who have suffered with the virus and I am delighted to see these becoming more accessible with the opening of specialist clinics right across England.
“Combined with further research and the new NHS England Long Covid taskforce, these additional services will ensure people get the care they need, improve lives and aid in the fight against this global pandemic.”