The Long Covid SOS charity called on the Government to stop putting its ‘head in the sand’ and take action to reduce the growing number of long Covid sufferers.
The annual GP Patient Survey polled patients in thousands of practices across England between January and April on various aspects of their health – including 125 in the NHS Nottinghamshire clinical commissioning group area.
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Of the 12,647 respondents in Nottinghamshire, 589, about 4.7 per cent, said that they had symptoms of long Covid.
Applying this rate to the latest population estimate for the CCG area as a whole means 40,416 people aged 16 and over in the area could be suffering from lingering health problems.
Across England, 4.4 per cent of GP patients, about two million people, said they had long Covid symptoms – which can include fatigue, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.
Long Covid SOS said this rate is higher than estimates by the Office for National Statistics, but it is also possible many people may not be aware they have it at all.
Ondine Sherwood, co-founder of the charity, said most sufferers are unable to obtain any meaningful treatment, and for many even that is not available due to lengthy waiting lists.
She said: “The Government needs to acknowledge this is a major issue impacting a significant proportion of the population and will lead to a massive burden of ill health on the NHS, society and the economy.
“The Government needs to stop putting its head in the sand and start to act.”
She said stricter infection control measures, more healthcare investment and increased research funding are needed.
The GP survey showed that the vast majority, 86.6 per cent, of patients who responded to the survey in Nottinghamshire said they did not have long Covid symptoms, but 7.8 per cent said they were unsure and 0.9 per cent preferred not to answer.
The Royal College of GPs said post-Covid syndrome is still a relatively new condition, but the prolonged health effects that some experience can have a terrible impact on their lives.
Prof Martin Marshall, college chairman, said more resources are needed, including good access to appropriate rehabilitation services in the local community, and more staff working in general practice.
He is calling on the Government to address the ‘intense workforce shortages’ and help deliver care to the increasing number of patients with long Covid.
The Department of Health and Social Care said that more than £50 million has gone to help scientists understand the virus's long-term debilitating effects, while the NHS has committed £224m to support people with ongoing symptoms.
A spokesman said: “The best way to protect yourself from Covid is by getting the vaccine, and our world-leading programme has delivered more than 150 million jabs.”