MPs demand “urgent strategy” on long Covid in letter to Sajid Javid

Over 60 MPs and peers from eight parties have written to Health Secretary Sajid Javid demanding a “comprehensive strategy” to address the threat posed by long Covid to the NHS and economy.

The cross-party letter, coordinated by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus warns that the decision to lift restrictions on 19 July at a time when Covid cases are already rising risks placing a “large and unsustainable burden” on the health service. It also emphasises that current rehabilitation services for long Covid patients are already “overstretched and under-resourced,” and that the current increase in case numbers will increase waiting lists even further.

It comes after the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned last week that current rising rates of the virus will lead to a “significant amount more long Covid, particularly in the younger ages where the vaccination rates are currently much lower.”

The cross-party letter calls on the government to start collecting regular data on long Covid cases, boost investment in long Covid clinics and rehabilitation services and provide ongoing financial support to key workers with the condition who have been unable to return work.

It also calls on ministers to carry out an impact assessment of how long Covid will affect the UK economy, tax revenues and health service, and use this to inform the government’s response to the pandemic. Finally, the letter requests urgent clarity over whether school-aged children will be given access to the vaccine, given they are at risk of developing long Covid, alongside mitigation measures such as better ventilation in school buildings.

Layla Moran, Chair of the APPG on Coronavirus, said:

The silence this week from the government on long Covid has been deafening. Their plans risk leaving many thousands more people with this debilitating condition, yet we’ve heard nothing about the additional NHS resources that will be needed to cope.

Sajid Javid must start taking long Covid seriously. An urgent, joined-up strategy is needed to protect individuals, the NHS and our economy from this threat.”

ENDS

Notes to Editor

A full copy of the letter and list of signatures is available below.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus is conducting a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic and has so far held over 20 hearings and made over 40 recommendations. The APPG has made a series of recommendations to improve support for those living with long Covid, after receiving evidence from a large number of long Covid sufferers.

A recent investigation by the APPG on Coronavirus revealed that some long Covid patients are waiting over 100 days for treatment. Several NHS trusts pointed to financial and operational pressures that have delayed the setting up of long Covid clinics. 


Dear Sajid Javid,

CC: Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson

We would first like to congratulate you on your appointment as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and look forward to working with you in your new role. As you will know, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus launched a cross-party inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic in July last year. Since then we have made over 50 recommendations to the government, with the aim of providing constructive and independent scrutiny and ensuring that lessons are learned and lives are saved. 

We are concerned that the government's decision to lift most remaining coronavirus public health measures from July 19 risks exposing many more people to long Covid, including younger age groups who aren’t yet fully vaccinated. This condition leaves many unable to work or carry out their regular daily activities, with severe consequences for our NHS and economy. The Office of National Statistics estimates that just under one million people in the UK were living with long Covid in June 2021, of whom 70% were of working age and 33,000 were children. Worryingly, the number of people living with the condition for a year or more has increased to 385,000. Long Covid has also disproportionately impacted key workers on the frontline, including an estimated 3% of those working in healthcare, 2.88% in social care and 2.19% in teaching and education, compared to a national average of 1.49%. 

The APPG on Coronavirus has received evidence from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists emphasising that the rehabilitation services providing support to long Covid patients are already overstretched and under-resourced, and that the current increase in case numbers will increase waiting lists even further. This was backed up by warnings from the British Medical Association that the UK could face around 4,000 cases of long Covid a day in three months’ time as a result of the current surge, which will have a huge impact on the NHS and our economy. Lifting remaining restrictions at a time when case numbers are rising and the impact of the vaccine on long Covid is not known risks placing a large and unsustainable burden on the health service.

Previous research by the APPG on Coronavirus has found some long Covid patients are waiting over 100 days for treatment, while in some areas long Covid clinics are still not up and running.  We have also  heard harrowing stories from those living with the devastating impact of long Covid, including children and key workers. This includes NHS staff who caught long Covid on the frontline one year ago, and now risk losing their jobs with no compensation or sick pay. This is a terrible injustice that requires an urgent response.

Behind every one of these numbers and stories is an individual person struggling with the devastating consequences of this cruel disease. We are urging you to use your new role to alleviate their suffering, and to work with the NHS, health experts and long Covid groups to develop a comprehensive strategy to tackle the threat posed by this condition. At a minimum, this strategy should include:

Collecting regular data on the number of long Covid cases and estimates of how these will be impacted by government decisions, including the dropping of current public health measures on 19 July 2021. Long Covid should be considered by the government as a key parameter in the same way as hospitalisations and deaths.

Providing sustained investment in long Covid clinics and rehabilitation services, to reduce waiting times for treatment and ensure patients receive the care they deserve. The current postcode lottery of care facing long Covid patients must be fixed.

Immediately setting up a scheme to provide ongoing financial support for key workers living with long Covid who have been unable to return to work. The government has a moral obligation to support those who caught long Covid on the frontline and now are paying the price.

Coordinating with HM Treasury to carry out a thorough assessment of the impact of long Covid on the UK economy, workforce, tax revenues and health service. This assessment should be used to inform future government decisions on its response to the pandemic.

Providing urgent clarity over whether school-aged children will be given access to the vaccine, given they are at risk of developing long Covid. The government should also focus on making school buildings safer including through ventilation and other mitigation measures.

Unless action is taken now, long Covid risks casting a dark shadow for many years to come over the UK economy and health service. It is not too late for you to change course.

Yours sincerely,

Layla Moran MP

Layla

Moran MP

MP

Liberal Democrat

Stephen

Farry MP

MP

Alliance

Ian

Byrne MP

MP

Labour

Mick

Whitley MP

MP

Labour

John

McDonnell MP

MP

Labour

Ian

Lavery MP

MP

Labour

Tahir

Ali MP

MP

Labour

Andrew

Gwynne MP

MP

Labour

Philippa

Whitford MP

MP

SNP

Mohammad

Yasin MP

MP

Labour

Diana

Johnson MP

MP

Labour

Debbie

Abrahams

MP

Labour

Liz

Saville-Roberts

MP

Plaid Cymru

Barbara

Keeley

MP

Labour

Caroline

Lucas

MP

Green

Ben

Lake

MP

Plaid Cymru

Clive

Lewis MP

MP

Labour

Paula

Barker MP

MP

Labour

Claudia

Webbe MP

MP

Labour

Stewart

McDonald MP

MP

SNP

Jamie

Stone MP

MP

Liberal Democrat

Drew

Hendry MP

MP

SNP

Apsana

Begum MP

MP

Labour

Tim

Farron MP

MP

Liberal Democrat

Daniel

Poulter

MP

Con

Baroness

Ludford

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Baroness

Harris of Richmond

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Baroness

Bull

Peer

Crossbench

Lord

Hain

Peer

Labour

Lord

Triesman

Peer

Crossbench

Lord

Goddard of Stockport

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Lord

Sikka

Peer

Labour

Lord

Russell of Liverpool

Peer

Labour

Baroness

Scott of Needham Market

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Lord

Kerr of Kinlochard

Peer

Crossbench

Lord

McNally

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Baroness

Burt of Solihull

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Baroness

Brinton

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Baroness

Ritchie of Downpatrick

Peer

SDLP

Baroness

Meacher

Peer

Crossbench

Lord

Jones of Cheltenham

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Baroness

Walmsley

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Lord

Freyberg

Peer

Crossbench

Baroness

Lawrence of Clarendon

Peer

Labour

Baroness

Lister of Burtersett

Peer

Labour

Baroness

Watkins of Tavistock

Peer

Crossbench

Lord

Dholakia

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Lord

Hendy

Peer

Labour

Baroness

Featherstone

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Lord

Mendelsohn

Peer

Labour

Baroness

Masham of Ilton

Peer

Crossbench

Baroness

Jay of Paddington

Peer

Labour

Lord

Tyler

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Lord

Strasburger

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Baroness

Sheehan

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Baroness

Tyler of Enfied

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Baroness

Kramer

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Baroness

Golding

Peer

Labour

Lord

Oates

Peer

Liberal Democrat

Sarah

Olney

MP

Liberal Democrat

Christine

Jardine

MP

Liberal Democrat

Wendy

Chamberlain

MP

Liberal Democrat