People living in Dorset will now be able to receive help for the long-term effects of COVID-19 which include breathlessness, anxiety and chronic fatigue – also known as ‘long COVID’.

Care and treatment for “long COVID” will be made available to people living locally who, although recovered from coronavirus, are still living with its debilitating side effects.

Estimates suggests that around one in five people who test positive for coronavirus will still be suffering with various symptoms after five weeks following their illness. These symptoms may include fatigue, headaches, persistent coughs or breathlessness. Most patients will go onto make a full recovery over the next few weeks however about one in 10 people will still be experiencing symptoms after 12 weeks

Under plans supported by NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, GPs and other staff working in primary care can arrange for patients with symptoms to undergo a dedicated long COVID assessment if they are still suffering after 12 weeks from their illness.

At this point, and once other non COVID-related conditions have been ruled out, patients will be offered support from Dorset HealthCare in the form of self-care, peer-to-peer help groups, virtual clinics or face-to-face appointments with experts from different health and care specialities.

Support may also come from patients being referred into existing local rehabilitation services or signposted to relevant voluntary sector groups.

Dr Forbes Watson is a GP in Lyme Regis and Chair of NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group. He said “Most patients will make a full recovery following their coronavirus within a few weeks of their illness.

However, unfortunately there will be some whose recovery will take longer which may be quite worrying.

We want to ensure that these people are given appropriate support depending on their individual problems and are confident that this service will ensure that will happen. With the support of this service, we expect people to be able to return back to their previous lifestyle including hobbies and interests”

Recent research into long COVID has shown the condition is most common in older people, women and those who experienced a high number of different symptoms after becoming infected with coronavirus.

While the new local service is designed to help all people, who believe their current health condition is a result of an earlier coronavirus diagnosis, patients are not able to self-refer and will need to access support through a referral from a named healthcare professional.

People showing symptoms for long COVID are encouraged to speak to their GP.

More information about other local health and care support services can be found online at www.nhs.uk.