“One of the major health challenges emerging from the pandemic is long COVID with hundreds of thousands of people predicted to suffer debilitating health issues." Sir Simon Stevens, outgoing NHS chief executive
The NHS is setting up specialist long COVID services for children and young people as part of a £100 million new initiative.
Fifteen new paediatric hubs will draw together experts on common symptoms, such as respiratory problems and fatigue, who can treat youngsters, advise family doctors or others caring for them or refer them into other specialist services and clinics.
A total of £30 million will also go to GPs to improve diagnosis and care for those with long COVID while new investment will also boost online services.
The initiative is part of a range of measures to help young people and adults with long COVID, including a major focus on specialist treatment and rehab services.
Some estimates suggest that 340,000 people may need support for the condition including 68,000 who will need rehab or other specialist treatment.
Sir Simon Stevens, outgoing NHS chief executive, set out the plans to deal with the COVID ‘legacy’ at the annual NHS Confederation conference.
He said: “The NHS has worked hard to care for 400,000 COVID patients requiring hospital treatment and keep essential services going through successive waves and we now need to step up action to deal with the legacy.
“One of the major health challenges emerging from the pandemic is long COVID with hundreds of thousands of people predicted to suffer debilitating health issues such as breathing problems and fatigue.
“That is why the NHS is now going to invest £100 million in specialist services, including care for children and young people so that parents know advice is on hand through the new hubs to provide patients and their families with the help, support and care that they need.
More than one million people have reported suffering from long COVID, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Symptoms include shortness of breath and extreme fatigue with almost a third of sufferers saying it has a significant impact on their daily life.
While the majority of children and young people are not severely affected by COVID, ONS data has shown that 7.4% of children aged 2-11 and 8.2% of those aged 12-16 report continued symptoms.
There is already a network of specialist long COVID clinics which have been given £34 million of funding.
Some £70 million of the new investment will extend these clinics and set up the paediatric hubs.
The hubs will bring together expert clinical teams, including paediatricians, physiotherapists, nurses and occupational therapists.
The teams will offer specialist advice to family doctors, community nurses and others seeing COVID patients aged up to 18 so that they can get the help they need close to home.
The hubs will also see and treat the complicated cases directly or refer them into other specialist services.
It will also provide a boost for online services for the condition – the Your COVID Recovery website will allow anyone with long lasting symptoms to access a range of advice without needing a referral from a healthcare professional.
The NHS is also exploring plans to launch a rapid access service for NHS staff to access long COVID treatment through either occupational health or GP referral.