NHS England cited estimates that 340,000 people experiencing long COVID may need medical support, including 68,000 who could require rehab or other specialist treatment.
This is based on figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month, which showed that an estimated 1m people in the UK - 1.6% of the total population - were 'experiencing self-reported long COVID'.
Around one in three of these people say their symptoms are having a significant impact on their daily life. The condition is defined as 'symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after the first suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) infection that were not explained by something else', with symptoms including shortness of breath and extreme fatigue.
NHS England has promised a £100m expansion of care for people experiencing long COVID - with £70m to pay for 15 specialist hubs for children with the condition and to improve an existing network of long COVID centres that have already received £34m in funding.
Officials say the 15 new paediatric hubs will 'draw together experts on common symptoms such as respiratory problems and fatigue who can directly treat youngsters, advise family doctors or others caring for them or refer them into other specialist services and clinics'.
The £30m earmarked for general practice will aim to 'improve diagnosis and care for those with long COVID while the new investment will also boost online services'.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens will tell the NHS Confederation conference on 15 June: 'The NHS has worked hard to care for 400,000 COVID-19 patients requiring hospital treatment and to keep essential services going through successive waves and we now need to step up action to deal with the legacy.
'One of the major health challenges emerging from the pandemic is long COVID with hundreds of thousands of people predicted to suffer debilitating health issues such as breathing problems and fatigue.
'That is why the NHS is now going to invest £100m in specialist services, including care for children and young people so that parents know advice is on hand through the new hubs to provide patients and their families with the help, support and care that they need.'
NHS England said it was also considering plans for 'a rapid access service for NHS staff to access long COVID treatment through either occupational health or GP referral'.
Long COVID sites for children are planned at the following locations:
The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NuTH)
- South Tees NHS Foundation Trust (James Cook University Hospital)
- Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
- Leeds Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Hull University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Alder Hey
- Manchester Children's Hospital
- Birmingham and Solihull Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHSFT
- Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland University Hospital Leicester NHST
- Cambridge University Hospitals
- Bristol Children's Hospital
- Oxford University Hospitals
- Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth
- University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
- London hub led by the Evelina, Imperial, UCLH and GOSH