People with “long Covid” symptoms will be offered specialist help at clinics across England, the head of NHS England has announced.
Sir Simon Stevens said there were “tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands” of patients affected.
People with relatively mild coronavirus infections as well as those who have been treated in intensive care can have persistent health problems for months.
The most common symptom of long Covid is crippling fatigue.
But breathlessness, joint pain, anxiety, brain fog and many other symptoms have also been reported.
And some estimates suggest one in 10 of those infected with the virus could be affected.
Sir Simon said £10m would be invested this year in setting up long-Covid clinics in every area across England, to provide one-stop services for physical and mental health issues.
Patients will have access to assessments for health issues, memory problems or mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.
They can then be referred to other specialist clinics if required.
He also announced:
- clinical guidelines on support for long-Covid patients
- an online rehab service called Your Covid Recovery
- research on 10,000 patients to better understand the condition
- a long-Covid taskforce, to include patients, medical specialists and researchers
Dundee student Evie Connell, 23, was going to the gym four times a week before she caught the virus, in March.
Her symptoms were mild at first – a migraine, cough and temperature.
But they did not go away.
And months later, she had a racing heart rate and worrying chest pain, which turned into chronic fatigue.
“I would come home and go to bed and sleep, then get up just in time to work again the next day,” Evie says.
“I couldn’t tell you anything I did outside of going to work.”
Evie was signed off work after her GP referred her to a Covid rehab team at her local hospital, where she is seeing a physiotherapist who is teaching her how to pace herself.
“It’s completely changed my life,” she says of long Covid.
Now back at university, Evie has to take breaks during classes because she cannot concentrate.
And she has been unable to focus on reading a book in six months.
“I don’t know when I’ll ever go back to the gym again,” she says.
“I’m just hoping I can get back to work soon, otherwise the money will run out.”