Long COVID-19 recommendations

30 October 2020

We have all had to adapt to COVID-19 conditions and among other things, that has pushed the RCGP Annual Conference online. While we all hope to meet again in person in Liverpool in October 2021, the College will be running a virtual conference on 11-12 February and you can book tickets now.

There will be high profile speakers announced in coming weeks on the website but, perhaps even more importantly, the conference will be a chance for the profession to come together from across the UK and share our experiences from this challenging time.

Understanding and treating Long COVID-19

The phenomenon of so-called ‘Long COVID-19’ has been a challenge for the profession to understand and respond to. Recently, the College addressed the issue with the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee. Amid a detailed submission, RCGP proposed a series of recommendations:

  • All patients who have ongoing symptoms of COVID-19 lasting longer than anticipated should be included in the disease definition, ensuring every patient who has been clinically diagnosed has equitable access to investigation and treatment.
  • Increased and long-term funding must urgently be provided to improve community access to investigations for ongoing symptoms of COVID-19, such as blood tests, ECG (static and ambulatory), echocardiography, tilt table, chest X-ray, pulmonary function tests, CT and MRI scanning.
  • Increased investment in primary care services must be taken into account, as services are designed to investigate and treat patients with ongoing symptoms of COVID-19. Most patients will be cared for within the community and it is essential that consideration is given to the increased time and resources this new disease will require.
  • Increased investment in community mental health services is needed to enable patients experiencing psychiatric and psychological impacts of COVID-19 to be able to access treatment in a timely fashion.
  • Funding must be allocated to enable the Royal Colleges or other appropriate bodies to produce high quality professional educational material to explain the diagnosis, the investigations and treatment available and the impact of this new emerging disease.
  • Increased and long-term investment in access to therapies, based in the community, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and specialist rehabilitation needs to be secured.
  • Commissioning of the Professional Records Standard Board (PRSB) to develop a clinical code alongside NHS digital, to enable accurate recording of ongoing/persistent COVID-19 symptoms in electronic patient records for the purpose of clinical care and to enable further research.
  • Occupational health services for primary care health care professionals who are suffering from continuing symptoms of COVID-19 should parallel those available in secondary care, and we call for a nationally funded primary care occupational health service. These services are required to ensure health care professionals are supported back to work and can continue to care for all patients. 

As you can see from these recommendations, to gain a fuller understanding of Long COVID-19 will require research and resources. The College is also working with NICE and SIGN to develop guidance related to service provision for Long COVID-19 patients.

In Wales, we have had media interest in the condition and will continue to raise the importance of this work to understand it better and to share best practice knowledge among our members.

My view is that IF (note the capitals!) general practice can get the resources and support, it is something that we are well placed to lead on.

Post written by

Professor Peter Saul, Joint Chair of RCGP Wales

Professor Peter Saul qualified in 1985 and currently is a partner in Rhosllanerchrugog near Wrexham. He combines his work in the practice with his other professional passion of medical education, in the role of Associate Postgraduate Dean in the Wales Deanery. He also works one session a week running the Paediatric Allergy Clinic at Chester Hospital.

Peter has been an active member of his local RCGP faculty, serving as Chair and as Treasurer. He is also actively involved with the media, with a medical column in the local newspaper and as a regular radio contributor.

For fun he rides a bike (his favourite being his red Brompton), and when in need of a loftier perspective he flies his part owned light aircraft from Welshpool Airport. He lives on a smallholding and has three grown up children, one of whom is a junior doctor in London.

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