Dr Mark Toshner

What will it take to tackle long Covid?

(Getty images)

With just under 500,000 patients admitted to hospitals in Britain since the start of the pandemic, we need to talk about ‘long Covid’. Why? Because while the vaccine rollout is undoubtedly saving many lives, there is going to be a forbidding secondary impact from this virus on the nation’s health, the scale of which is only just becoming apparent. 

What does ‘long Covid’ conjure in your mind? For many, it has become synonymous with fatigue and brain fog, symptoms which are fairly common. But what is less well known is that the impact of Covid-19 on patients can extend far beyond these symptoms alone. Alongside some of the mental health problems from the pandemic, this presents a huge challenge for the coming months, given the sheer numbers of people who have been affected. 

Covid-19 does not stop the day you leave the hospital. More than one in ten patients are dead within three months of being discharged. Just under one in three end up back in hospital. Around ten per cent have a new respiratory diagnosis and one in 20 a major cardiac event. 

Such patients are the untold stories of this pandemic

Yet such patients are the untold stories of this pandemic. That may be about to change with multiple post-hospital discharge studies due to report soon. 

The raw numbers involved are daunting for the clinicians and health care workers on the frontline. For a start, though all medics are now effectively amateur Covid-19 physicians now, there is not really a special Covid-19 setup to look after patients in the medium or long-term, nor clear funding in place for this. 

Hospitals are a mix of in-patient and out-patient specialities carved up by body systems; they are a patchwork of fiefdoms. Yet none of them alone are able to deal with the many complications of Covid-19.

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