Some long Covid sufferers in England waiting months for treatment

People who remain chronically ill after Covid infections in England have had to wait months for appointments and treatment at specialist clinics set up to handle the surge in patients with long Covid.

MPs called on Matt Hancock to explain the lengthy waiting times and what they described as a “shameful postcode lottery” which left some patients facing delays of more than four months before being assessed at a specialist centre while others were seen within days.

NHS England announced in December that people with long Covid, or post-Covid syndrome, could seek help at more than 60 specialist clinics. But despite government assertions in January that the network of 69 centres was already operating, the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus found that some clinics were still not up and running three months later.

Freedom of information requests submitted to NHS trusts revealed that while some clinics had opened and were seeing patients, others had been delayed by the second wave of infections in January. Two sites, the Scarborough teaching hospital trust and Rotherham NHS foundation trust, had no clinic operating or planned, while another five trusts had not been able to set them up before the end of March. In Bolton, a long Covid clinic was “on hold” while more staff were being recruited.

Where clinics had opened, the MPs found huge disparities in demand and waiting times. One trust had assessed 498 patients out of 2,796 referrals by 31 March, while another had yet to triage any of the 700 referrals it received. In the best cases, patients were assessed within a week of being referred, but the documents show that three long Covid patients waited more than 100 days before being treated at the Homerton University hospital NHS foundation trust, with one waiting 127 days. One patient at the Royal Berkshire NHS foundation trust waited 102 days, while another at Oxford University hospitals NHS trusts waited 97 days.

Layla Moran, a Lib Dem MP and chair of the APPG on coronavirus, said the figures “expose the shameful postcode lottery of care facing those suffering with long Covid”. She called on the health secretary to apologise for the long waiting times and explain to parliament why some long Covid clinics did not appear to be operational despite being promised months ago.

“It is intolerable that patients with this debilitating condition are still not receiving the care they deserve,” she said. “The government must urgently increase funding for long Covid clinics, so that overstretched NHS trusts can offer treatment to all those who need it.”

When Hancock announced the specialist clinics in December, he stressed the “huge impact” long Covid can have on those affected and noted: “We are doing everything we can to support people who are still suffering with effects on their health.”

The Office for National Statistics estimates that 1.1 million people are living with long Covid in the UK. Among them 674,000 said ongoing illness affected their everyday life, with nearly 196,000 stating that it impacted their day to day activities a lot.

Many patients who attended long Covid clinics were recommended to use a digital app for support, while others received talking therapies, physiotherapy, or continued treatment at clinics specialising in lung health, respiratory infections and chronic fatigue.


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