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People discharged from hospital following Covid-19 face a high risk of readmission and multiple organ dysfunction, according to research.
Almost a third of people who were discharged from hospitals in England after being treated for Covid-19 were readmitted within five months and more than one in 10 died, a study – which is yet to be peer-reviewed – found.
The researchers sought to establish what ‘post-Covid syndrome’ (PCS) might be by looking at the rates of impairment in the organs of 47,780 Covid-19 patients who were discharged from hospital by 31 August 2020. The mean age of the patients was 65 and 55% were male.
Some 29.4% were readmitted within 140 days of discharge and 12.3% died. The rate of readmission was 3.5 times greater, and the death rate seven times higher, than those in the control group.
Rates of respiratory disease (29.6%), diabetes (4.9%) and major cardiovascular events (4.8%) were also significantly elevated in Covid-19 cases.
The study, which was conducted by academics and statisticians at the Office for National Statistics, the Leicester Diabetes Centre and University College London, says: “With over 3 million people in the UK having tested positive for Covid-19 at the time of writing, and many more who had the disease but never received a test, our findings suggest that the long term burden of Covid-related morbidity on hospitals and broader healthcare systems is likely to be substantial.
“PCS comes on a backdrop of healthcare challenges, particularly sustainable high-quality care for long-term conditions: inequalities in health, access and provision; incomplete pathways across community and hospital care; inadequate research translation to clinical practice; and insufficient resources.
“Our findings across organ systems suggest that the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of PCS will require integrated rather than organ- or disease-specific approaches. Integrated care pathways are structured, multidisciplinary care plans for specific conditions, which have been effective in other diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and may have utility in the management of PCS.”
‘Havoc’ for frontline workers
Meanwhile, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s shadow mental health minister and an A&E doctor, has warned that long Covid could “wreak havoc” on the frontline workforce.
Speaking in a House of Commons debate on 14 January, she said: “The symptoms of long Covid can be severe, completely debilitating and utterly crippling, and prevent people from living their normal lives. This impact can have a detrimental effect on people’s mental health, their wellbeing and their physical wellbeing.
“It leaves many unable to return to work months after their initial battle with the virus and causes a great deal of uncertainty on already anxious minds… and many people with long Covid don’t know when or if they’ll return to work.
“Key workers have an increased risk of catching Covid-19, NHS workers are three times more likely to contract it than the general population and this could wreak havoc on our frontline workforce.”
A BMA survey in December also found that 5% of doctors were suffering from continuing symptoms several weeks’ after they contracted coronavirus, up from 4% in October.