Tens of thousands of the most seriously affected coronavirus survivors will be offered online recovery services in the coming months.
The NHS is launching an online portal, Your Covid Recovery, for people who are suffering with breathing difficulties, muscle damage from being on a ventilator, or from mental health problems such as PTSD, anxiety and depression.
Everyone will be able to access advice about recovering from the virus via the portal from later in July, and a second phase of personalised services for those who need specialist rehabilitation will be launching later this summer.
The second phase is in development by experts based in Leicester, and will involve patients being assessed by rehabilitation specialists and performing a six-minute walk test before they can use up to 12 weeks of online aftercare.
Through the portal, they will be able to speak with nurses and physiotherapists over the phone, join a survivors’ community, follow exercise tutorials to help regain muscle strength and lung function, and access mental health support.
Patients will be given a log-in to the site which they can use on their phone, computer, or TV, and leaflets will also be sent to patients who do not have access to a suitable device.
This comes after the first centre to provide rehabilitation services for Covid-19 survivors, as well as non-coronavirus patients, the NHS Seacole Centre in Leatherhead, Surrey, began treating patients in late May.
Some 100,000 Covid-19 patients have been treated in hospitals and tens of thousands of them are likely to need aftercare services, as well as many more who suffered with the virus at home.
Announcing the launch of the rehabilitation service on the NHS’s 72nd anniversary, the institution’s chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said Covid-19 has been “the biggest challenge in the NHS’s history”.
He said: “As we celebrate the birthday of the NHS and look ahead to the next phase of our response, while in-person care will continue to be vital, the health service is embracing the best that new technology can offer us to meet the significant level of new and ongoing need.
“Rolling out Your Covid Recovery, alongside expanding and strengthening community health and care services, is another example of how the NHS must bring the old and the new together to create better and more convenient services for patients.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government has invested millions of pounds into coronavirus research and will support the NHS to deliver long-term rehabilitation.
He said: “We are learning about this disease all the time, and increasingly know that for some people, Covid-19 has debilitating lasting effects.”
He added: “The new research will help us understand how to prevent and treat the long term complications suffered by some.
“I suffered from coronavirus first-hand so I know the impact it can have. I’m determined to ensure we have the best possible treatment for coronavirus, both to save lives, and to help anyone suffering from the aftershocks.”