Patients and doctors suffering long-term symptoms from coronavirus, survey finds

Almost a third of doctors have treated patients for long-term symptoms believed to have been caused by coronavirus, a new survey suggests.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said 31% of almost 4,000 doctors in England and Wales had seen patients suffering from chronic fatigue, reduced exercise capacity, muscle weakness and memory loss.

According to the BMA’s survey, the doctors believed the symptoms were the result of the patient having suffered from Covid-19.

A further 21% of 1,030 doctors who had since recovered from the virus reported chronic fatigue, while 11% said they had concentration difficulties.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee for England, said it was becoming “increasingly clear” that the long-term impact of coronavirus on both individuals and the health system would be “profound”.

He said: “These statistics suggest that patients are, even once they have recovered from the worst of this virus, still suffering the after-effects for some time.

“With more patients presenting with conditions as the result of infection, it’s essential that sufficient capacity is in place to support and treat them.”

Dr Vautrey added that with a growing backlog of non-coronavirus treatment, and the possibility of a second wave of infections, a “more comprehensive long-term plan” was needed.

A total of 4,279 doctors took part in the BMA’s survey, of which 3,729 responded to the question about their patients’ long-term symptoms.

The survey also found that 26% of some 4,120 doctors believed they had – or may have had – Covid-19.

Dr David Strain, the BMA’s medical academic staff committee co-chair, said it was “not surprising” that frontline staff had experienced high rates of infection, adding that it was “not acceptable”.

He said: “The increasing evidence that Covid-19 patients can suffer long-lasting symptoms, irrespective of the severity of the initial infection, requires detailed study to understand what optimum treatment would be, and, preferably, how to prevent it occurring in the first place.

“Until this is known, it is imperative that the Government and the NHS does more to protect the medical community from infection.

“We cannot afford more failures of quality and supply in personal protective equipment. Risk assessments should be available to all working in the NHS, and appropriate steps should be put in place to mitigate the risk of catching the virus, even in those that have a low risk of a bad outcome from the initial infection.”

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