Sajid Javid warned NHS could face 4,000 long Covid cases a day as waiting lists for treatment grow

  • BMA warns MPs that UK could face 4,000 long Covid cases a day in three months’ time
  • Waiting lists for long Covid treatment growing across all regions of UK, particularly those hardest hit by pandemic.
  • Rehabilitation services risk being “overwhelmed” as demand for long Covid treatment grows.

 

The new Health Secretary Sajid Javid is being urged to consider the impact of long Covid ahead of lifting restrictions on July 19, after warnings that the current surge could leave the NHS facing an additional 4,000 cases of long Covid a day while rehabilitation services could be overwhelmed.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus held an evidence session today with leading experts on the risks posed by long Covid to healthcare staff and patients. Dr David Strain, who heads up the British Medical Association’s work on long Covid, said that of the 22,000 people diagnosed with coronavirus yesterday, around 4,000 will have symptoms of long Covid in three months’ time which will have a “huge impact” on the health service. He urged the new Health Secretary to consider long Covid as one of the “key parameters” ahead of lifting lockdown restrictions.

Dr David Strain also warned that the NHS is facing growing waiting lists of long Covid patients, particularly in regions hardest hit by the second wave of the pandemic. He said that in the Midlands around 3,500 people with long Covid are currently on a waiting list, and that in all regions “waiting lists appear to be getting longer”.

Meanwhile, Lauren Walker of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists warned MPs that the rehabilitation services providing support to long Covid patients are already “stretched and under-resourced”. She warned that any increase in case numbers will “stretch services and increase waiting lists even further” and that staff risk being “overwhelmed by demand”. She then urged Sajid Javid to make rehabilitation services a “high priority” in future spending decisions to ensure everyone affected by long Covid has “equitable access to rehabilitation and treatment.” 

A recent investigation by the APPG on Coronavirus revealed a postcode lottery of care for long Covid patients, with some waiting over 100 days for treatment. The research also found several of the long Covid clinics were still not up and running several months after having been promised by the government.

Caroline Lucas MP, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said:

“Sajid Javid must listen to these stark warnings about the devastating impact of long Covid on patients and our health service.

“The NHS is already facing a surge of long Covid cases as waiting lists for treatment continue to grow.  Yet despite this growing demand, the government has still not put in place adequate support services for those suffering from this cruel condition.

“The government claims we should learn to live with Covid, but that will be cold comfort to the thousands being left to suffer with the long-term consequences of this disease.”

ENDS

Notes to Editor

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has been conducting an ongoing 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’s aim is to ensure that lessons are learned from the UK’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak so that the UK’s response and preparedness may be improved in future. More information is available here

Today’s APPG evidence session on long Covid and employment can be viewed here. A transcript of the session will be published on the APPG website here in due course. 

Speaking at today’s APPG evidence session, Dr David Strain, of the British Medical Association, said: 

[On easing of lockdown and long Covid]

“[Sajid Javid] gave an announcement last night about the easing of lockdown and the key checks that still need to be in place that need to be met. We would ask him to consider long Covid as one of the key parameters. 22,000 people were diagnosed yesterday, and we know the vaccine is doing a tremendous job at keeping those out of hospital, stopping them dying of pneumonia and hopefully our hospitals will not be overwhelmed. But if the figures are anything to go by, of those 22,000 who were diagnosed yesterday, we will end up with 4,000 who will have symptomatic long Covid in three months’ time. They are the sorts of numbers we are facing and that’s going to have a huge impact on the health service and the overall economy, so we would implore him to consider that in his easing of lockdown.”

[On waiting lists for long Covid patients]

“The most recent figures for the regions suggest that the waiting lists are expanding and as you may expect the waiting lists are expanding more in the regions which were hit most in the second wave. So if you look in the Midlands, there are currently just over 3,500 people on their waiting list. In all cases these waiting lists appear to be getting longer”

Lauren Walker, from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, said: 

“Any increase in numbers in this wave is going to stretch services and increase waiting lists even further. It’s very important to consider that the need for support in the community will continue long after the pressure on hospitals has receded, so ongoing support with symptom management and rehabilitation must remain a priority for health and care staff affected by long Covid but we also need to protect the welfare of staff in community settings who may well be overwhelmed by demand.”

The session heard from the following witnesses:

Part one (11.30am until 12.15pm), with experts in the NHS

  • Dr David Strain, British Medical Association: Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, is heading up the BMAs work on the long-term impact of Covid-19.
  • Lauren Walker, Royal College of Occupational Therapists: Lauren is lead for community rehabilitation and housing, and has been focussing on the occupational therapy role in the acute and long term response to Covid-19.
  • Ruth ten Hove, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists: Ruth is also representing the Community Rehabilitation Alliance, an alliance of health specialities looking at research into rehabilitation.

Part two (12.15pm to 1.00pm) with experts on the impact of Covid-19 on the workplace

  • Dr Steve Boorman CBE, chair of the Council for Work and Health. The Council consists of 35 professional organisations whose members are specialists in aspects of managing workers' health.
  • Dr Kim Burton OBE: Dr Burton is an expert on the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) which is currently looking at whether to make Covid-19 an occupational disease.
  • Simon Hodgson, Head of Public Policy at Unum: On behalf of Unum, Simon has conducted a study on the impact of the pandemic on SMEs.