Responding to the data published by the ONS on Long COVID, Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said:
“These figures are a clear reminder of the real risk of how COVID-19 can continue to affect people's lives long after the first symptoms. That so many people are reporting possible Long COVID also reminds us of the additional pressure on NHS teams associated with these new and longer-term health problems, especially for community services and primary care.
“This is alongside the pressures caused by rapidly growing demand for mental health services, and also tackling the backlog of treatment as a result of the disruption caused by the pandemic. There is also a hidden list of patients who may not yet have come forward for treatment, and our own modelling has suggested that if they did present, there could be a backlog of 6.9 million by the end of 2021.
“The findings that those most likely to experience symptoms of Long COVID are those living in the most deprived areas and those with pre-existing, activity-limiting health conditions also highlights yet again the pressing need to address health inequalities.
“NHS organisations are working hard to improve access and maximise capacity so that they can provide care to as many people as possible. But the Government must be honest with the public about the scale of the challenge facing the NHS and also provide the investment needed to tackle issues like Long COVID alongside all the other pressures on the health service.”