Responding to the appointment of the Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP as the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Long Covid SOS co-founders Ondine Sherwood and Sandra Edwards said:
“On behalf of the members of our charity we would like to congratulate Mr Barclay in his challenging role as Secretary of State for Health and Social care and wish him every success.
“We would ask him to tackle as his first priority the ongoing impact of the Covid pandemic – which, unfortunately, is far from over and is currently threatening to overwhelm the NHS in three key ways:
“Firstly, adults and children are still becoming ill at home and in hospitals from Covid despite the vaccination programme and supposedly ‘milder’ omicron variants. More than 1000 daily hospital admissions were recorded over the past week in England alone and the KCL Zoe Health Study estimates that almost 3 million people in the UK have Covid right now. A significant number will go on to develop the debilitating complications of Long Covid – up to 1 in 10 or even more.
“Secondly, without mitigations in place to keep infection rates low, thousands of NHS staff have been hit by each successive wave. This means huge numbers of staff absences, with over 132,000 vacancies across the NHS, leading to the cancellation of urgent operations and appointments, lengthening waiting lists– and more pressure on already stretched services.
“Finally – and most importantly – the ever-growing number of people in the UK with Long Covid: 2.3 million according to the latest ONS figures, with 36% having developed this in the recent Omicron wave of infections. Among them are huge numbers of essential frontline staff – nurses, doctors, and social care staff. We calculate that this adds up to a figure of approximately 150,000 workers.
“These people – some of whom have been struggling with symptoms since Spring 2020 – still have no effective treatment. Many have had no access to specialist Long Covid clinics and therefore require multiple specialist appointments for this multi-system disease – for heart and organ damage, vascular problems and neurological injury amongst many other conditions.
“We are keen to meet with Mr Barclay in person to discuss first-hand these vital issues and to learn more about his Covid plan for the coming months. We need him to recognise that Long Covid is a major problem that needs tackling right now – with increased measures and fast-tracked effective treatment – to stop the NHS buckling under the pressure this winter.”