Senior health professionals have suggested that up to a million people will need treatment for long Covid, which will place additional pressures on the NHS for years to come.
There are fears that staff shortages, the need to tackle surgery backlogs and the existing strain on lung and heart services will limit the care that the NHS can provide, according to a report in The Guardian.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, told the paper: “The NHS knows this is a problem. It’s very concerned about this. Long Covid is going to be a very substantial new burden on the NHS. It’s working hard and setting up clinics. But there will be huge numbers of these cases and it’s clearly going to be dealing with this for years, absolutely for years.
“It’s going to be the next challenge that the NHS has to deal with whilst… recovering from the pandemic and whilst desperately trying to deal with the backlog [of tests and surgery], with staff that are exhausted.
“People [in the NHS] are very fearful about how they’re going to be able to deliver [the care that long Covid patients need].”
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Right now there’s a lot of people in every GP practice that have got long Covid and who will develop long Covid. GPs are seeing growing numbers of people with post-Covid symptoms.”
Last month it was estimated that as many as 100,000 intensive care patients and 350,000 Covid-19 patients treated on general wards could need long-term care and rehabilitation following the pandemic.
Symptoms of long Covid include breathlessness, organ abnormalities and fatigue. Some Covid-19 patients may also experience post-traumatic stress disorder.
Many frontline health workers are themselves suffering the effects of long Covid, and the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus called for the establishment of a compensation scheme for health professionals who have been affected.