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Oxford NHS trusts to give specialist help to long COVID patients


Oxford's two NHS trusts are to work closely together to provide specialist help to patients suffering from long COVID, following an announcement from NHS England.

Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust are among more than 60 sites that will run an assessment service which will take referrals from GPs for people experiencing symptoms such as brain fog, anxiety, depression, breathlessness, fatigue and other debilitating symptoms. The physical clinics will begin in January 2021.

People diagnosed with long COVID by their GP will be contacted by a medical professional following a triage service and be given support on managing their recovery. The service brings together doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to offer both physical and psychological assessments and refer patients to the right treatment and rehabilitation services.

The NHS England announcement on Friday 18 December 2020 came after new research from the Office for National Statistics showed that one in five people with coronavirus develop longer-term symptoms. It said around 186,000 people in England were living with COVID-19 symptoms that had persisted for between five and 12 weeks.

OUH and Oxford Health will be working as part of the same team, with an OUH clinician and Oxford Health therapist jointly triaging all referrals.

OUH Respiratory Consultant Emily Fraser, who heads the long COVID service for OUH, said: "By working together, we can work out who will need clinic or community input or both. Patients may then move between Oxford Health and OUH services after assessments or if their needs change.

"Today's announcement is a positive sign that the NHS is ramping up its efforts to tackle long COVID, by giving patients access to specialist services. COVID-19 is still relatively new and as we learn more about the condition, treatment and tailored support will continue to improve."

Sara Bolton, Oxford Health's Associate Director of Allied Health Professions, said: "Oxford Health has been working for some time on helping people suffering from the long-term effects of COVID and we are pleased that NHS England has provided funding for this service across the UK.

"We have been providing support to people suffering from long COVID for some time and have had good feedback from the people that we have helped.

"Patients can access services if they are referred by a GP or another healthcare professional, so that doctors can first rule out other possible underlying causes for symptoms."

NHS England has provided £10 million for the nationwide network of clinics, which started opening in November 2020. There are now 69 operating across the country with hundreds of patients already getting help.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive, said: "The NHS is taking practical action to help patients suffering ongoing health issues as a result of coronavirus.

"Bringing expert clinicians together in these clinics will deliver an integrated approach to support patients in accessing vital rehabilitation, as well as helping develop a greater understanding of long COVID and its debilitating symptoms."