NHS officials announced earlier this week that £100m would be invested in care for long COVID, citing estimates that of around 1m people in England with the condition as many as one in three may need medical support to manage it, including some patients requiring rehab and more intensive specialist care.
A £30m tranche of the funding earmarked for general practice will pay for a long COVID enhanced service, NHS England has said.
In a document setting out NHS long COVID plans this week, officials said general practice 'plays a key role in supporting patients, both adults and children, with long-term symptoms of COVID-19' - describing the role as covering diagnosis, referral to specialist post-COVID clinics and offering 'longer-term holistic support'.
The plan says: 'This is a new and complex condition and will require professional education, consistent clinical coding of patients, planning of practice clinical pathways that will enable clinical management in primary care, where appropriate, and consideration of measures to reduce the risk of inequity of access to support.
'Therefore, we will offer an enhanced service to all GP practices. Additional funding of £30m will be available for practices that take up the enhanced service to plan their workforce set up, training needs and infrastructure to support patients with this new condition.
'This will be in addition to the funding already available to practices through global sum which reflects their core contractual responsibility for the provision of essential services to this cohort of patients.'
NHS England has said the enhanced service will have three main goals - to increase knowledge in general practice about identification, assessment, referral and support for patients with the condition; coding and collection of data to support learning about symptoms and progress of the condition; and reducing inequity of access to support.
NHS plans set out coding that has been devised to help practices accurately record stages of long COVID, and details ways practices may be asked to collaborate with other parts of the NHS system to share information and education.
The plan says 'participating general practices will submit a self-assessment confirming the above
plans are in place'.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens told the NHS Confederation conference this week: '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.'