Patients with long Covid are facing a ‘postcode lottery’ when it comes to accessing care and support, nurses have warned.
A conference of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Glasgow has said access to treatment can vary hugely across the UK, with some services treating it as a physical condition but others as psychological.
The union also highlighted long waits in parts of England, which has a network of specialist clinics, while patients in Scotland and Wales may be missing out because of a lack of dedicated clinics.
Speaking at the conference , nurses said they had seen first-hand how debilitating the symptoms could be, according to a report on the BBC. Nearly half of the patients being referred to specialist services were aged between 35 and 54, they added.
Jo Strucke, a mental health nurse who works in a specialist service in Yorkshire, said: “Some of our patients have really complex physical health problems and their lives have been transformed. They may be unable to work, socialise and do things they previously enjoyed.”
Helen Donovan, the RCN’s public health lead, added: “As nursing staff we see first-hand how life-limiting long Covid can be. There aren’t enough specialist services to meet growing demand and the help patients get varies hugely across the country.”
Of 4,400 people who had got an initial assessment at one of the country’s 90 dedicated adult long Covid clinics in the most recent month, 30% had been waiting more than 15 weeks for an initial assessment.
But there was also wide regional variation in waits, with nearly half of patients waiting more than 15 weeks in the south east and south west, compared with 20% in the north west.
While the role and expertise of occupational health is increasingly being recognised by employers looking to manage and support long Covid, there have also been warnings that employers may need to consider longer-term work adjustments for employees with long Covid, as the lasting nature of the illness will mean a short-term phased return to work is “unlikely to be effective”.