Sunday 5 July 2020 5:29 pm

Government launches major review into long-term health impacts of coronavirus

The UK government has launched a major review of the long-term mental and physical health implications of coronavirus. 

A study of more than 10,000 patients, led by the Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, will assess the impact of coronavirus on patients and how recovery is shaped by individual characteristics such as gender and ethnicity, the Department for Health and Social Care announced today. 

Read more: Former MI6 chief amps up fears coronavirus came from Wuhan lab

Experts from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) will use techniques such as advanced imaging and analysis of blood and lung samples to create a comprehensive picture of the impact of Covid-19 on long-term health outcomes.

A growing body of evidence suggests that even patients with mild coronavirus symptoms may suffer long-lasting health effects including lung damage.

A report released in March by the RSNA showed that of 70 Chinese patients who survived Covid-19 pneumonia, 66 had developed some form of lung damage that was visible in CT scans.

The Department for Health announced it will pour £8.4m into the new study, which is set to be the largest review of the long-term impacts of Covid-19 on patients in the world. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “As we continue our fight against this global pandemic, we are learning more and more about the impact the disease can have not only on immediate health, but longer-term physical and mental health too.

“This world-leading study is another fantastic contribution from the UK’s world-leading life sciences and research sector. It will also help to ensure future treatment can be tailored as much as possible to the person.”

The study will start recruiting hospital patients from the end of July, and will focus on “under-represented” groups, the Department for Health said.    

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “As well as the immediate health impacts of the virus it is also important to look at the longer-term impacts on health, which may be significant. 

“We have rightly focused on mortality, and what the UK can do straight away to protect lives, but we should also look at how Covid-19 impacts on the health of people after they have recovered from the immediate disease.” 

It comes as the NHS today announced the rollout of a long-term recovery service called Your Covid Recovery, which will offer online advice for “tens of thousands” of patients in England that have suffered lasting symptoms from the disease.

Read more: UK coronavirus death toll rises by 22

The online tool, launched on the NHS’ 72nd birthday today, will allow patients to contact healthcare workers and mental health services, and to track their recovery from coronavirus. 

The service is expected to launch later this month, and will initially be available for more than 129,000 people who have been hospitalised with the virus. 

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