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NHS to launch Long Covid service for children in Oxfordshire

Oxford University Hospitals will run one of 15 paediatric hubs around the UK.

While children are less likely to suffer the severe effects of Covid-19, some have suffered long-term after effects.

Now the health service in England has announced that it is to launch 15 paediatric hubs around the UK to help families and GPs.

Oxford University Hospitals will host one of the hubs, which will draw together experts on common symptoms such as respiratory problems and fatigue.

They will be able to directly treat youngsters, advise family doctors or others caring for them or refer them into other specialist services and clinics, the NHS in England said.

More than one million people have reported suffering from Long Covid, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Some estimates suggest that 340,000 people may need support for the condition including 68,000 who will need rehab or other specialist treatment.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, “brain fog” and extreme fatigue with almost a third of sufferers saying it has a significant impact on their daily life.

ONS data suggests that 7.4% of children aged two to 11 and 8.2% of those aged 12-16 report continued symptoms.

The new Long Covid hubs for children are to be announced by NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation conference on Tuesday, he is expected to say: “The NHS has worked hard to care for 400,000 Covid patients requiring hospital treatment and 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 £100 million 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.

“This is just the latest example of how NHS staff have pulled out all the stops to provide care for those who need it throughout this terrible pandemic.”

There is already a network of specialist Long Covid clinics which have been given £34 million of funding.

Some £70 million of the new investment will extend these clinics and set up the paediatric hubs.

Claire Hastie of Long Covid Support, whose Facebook group has more than 40,000 members, said: “We very much welcome this additional investment in Long Covid services, including paediatric hubs.

“Our survey of our [adult] members’ experiences in seeking referral to Long Covid assessment services (which are available only in England) shows that currently only half are successfully referred, and most of them face lengthy waits for investigations.

“Broadening investment beyond assessment to focus on treatment and rehab is much needed, particularly as vast numbers of people have been ill for over a year, had little to no help and have been unable to go to work or school.

“Although limited in number, the paediatric hubs are recognition of the impact that Long Covid can have on children.

“My 12-year-old twin sons continue to experience relapses every three to four weeks 15 months since falling ill, and I have several friends whose children have been suffering immensely for months.”

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