Inequalities in long Covid care are a major concern leading doctor warns

Inequalities in care for long Covid patients are a major concern with many from disadvantaged backgrounds unaware of services such as long Covid clinics, according to a leading doctor.

The country is not prepared to deal with the rising number of long Covid cases say some medical experts.

Medical professionals have also warned that the NHS is likely to struggle with the rising number of long Covid cases.

Dr Kathrine Hickman, GP and respiratory lead for NHS Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group, told The Yorkshire Post: “From the early data that came out from Leeds, we know that Covid has disproportionately affected those people of ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds.

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“But those patients that were presenting to the long Covid clinic, certainly initially, were from much more affluent postcodes.

“There’s an element of ‘those that shout loudest will get seen’, unless we really raise awareness across all populations.

“It affects everybody but we know disproportionately it affects those patients who are socially disadvantaged. But they are not the ones presenting to the long Covid clinics. We need to do more.”

She added: “From what we’re hearing, people that are getting Covid, who have been vaccinated, are getting a milder version and are probably less likely to get long Covid, which is again another reason to get vaccinated.”

Businesses have also been warned to brace themselves for potential further disruption as long Covid cases rise.

The country is not at all prepared to deal with the rising number of long Covid cases, says Dr David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter and the British Medical Association (BMA) lead on long Covid.

He points to the lack of services for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which has similarities to long Covid, as an example of why he feels the country is not well equipped to deal with this new illness.

Dr Strain added that NHS workers were “three times more likely” to catch Covid and the impact of long Covid on healthcare workers is already being felt.

“We are in a position where we have got healthcare workers who are now 12 months down the road with a disease that didn’t exist,” he said. “They’ve got no signs of treatment and don’t necessarily have the best support.

“If you’re a GP that has got long Covid then you’ve effectively lost your job.”

Dr Hickman said that “capacity is definitely an issue” when it comes to supporting patients with long Covid.

She says that “everybody is fishing from the same pond” when it comes to accessing specialists who can help long Covid patients.

This is exacerbated by the backlog of patients waiting to be seen for other treatments in both primary and secondary care.

The Government has made £50m available for scientists to look into the long-term effects of Covid and ensure patients receive the right help and treatments.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We have already opened more than 80 long COVID assessment services across England, including specialist services for children and young people as part of a £100m expansion of care.”

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James Mitchinson