Long Covid: Councils set out need for plan, funding and research on long-term health and care impact

COVID-19’s expected long-term health impact needs to be recognised in future public health and social care planning.


Person sitting down outside with mask on

COVID-19’s expected long-term impact on the nation’s health and wellbeing needs to be recognised in future planning for public health and social care services, including greater research and funding certainty, the Local Government Association sets out today.

The LGA - which is hosting its Virtual Annual Conference this week - says the continuing success of the vaccination rollout, the easing of lockdown and the emergence of variants of concern means it is vital that society prepares for what comes next, including anticipating the challenges ahead and what will become ‘business as usual’ for councils and the wider public.

Today's LGA conference, which represents councils across England, will include a panel discussion featuring Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty, on what to expect as we learn to live with coronavirus.

Latest official figures show nearly a million people have self-reported Long Covid symptoms, with almost two-thirds saying their day-to-day activities have been adversely affected as a result, while nearly 20 per cent said they had been “limited a lot”.

Fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle aches and difficulty concentrating were among the most commonly reported symptoms according to the Office of National Statistics, all of which could lead to greater long-term demand on councils’ public health and social care services, through the need for extra physical and mental health support, as well as on connected services such as housing, transport, welfare and employment.

Coronavirus has had a major impact on the health and wellbeing of society and our recovery will be a public health priority for many years to come. Research is currently taking place into the effects of people experiencing Long Covid symptoms and more information is likely to emerge over time.

The LGA said it is vital to get a better understanding of what more can be done to mitigate the potential lasting impact of coronavirus on all health and care services, including for people with underlying conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease who are particularly at risk from the known effects and consequences of Long Covid, which may be lifelong.

Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“The scientific consensus is that coronavirus will be with us in some form for many months and years ahead and councils with their public health and social care responsibilities want to play their full part in keeping our communities safe, healthy and protected.

“We are only beginning to learn more about the long-term effects of this disease and we need to start planning now for what could be a potential increase in requests for care and support and other council services due to Covid-related conditions.

“As we look towards our eventual exit from the pandemic, all of us involved in the response to the pandemic – central and local government, the medical and scientific community - need to have an honest debate about the potential implications of Long Covid on resources and capacity, not just in terms of pressures on the NHS, but also on our overstretched and under-pressure social care system and other vital council services.

“Frontline health and care workers have already endured so much and we need to prepare as much as we can for how we deal with the long-term effects of what has been the most devastating and challenging period in our collective national memory. This must be reflected in the Government’s upcoming Spending Review, as part of our overall recovery efforts.”

Notes to Editors

LGA Annual Conference

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Build back local

The LGA’s annual conference report, ‘Build back local’ will be launched on Tuesday.

Forget What You Think You Know podcast

Forget What You Think You Know is the LGA's new podcast show exploring social issues that are affecting communities in England on a day-to-day basis. In the podcasts we interview people facing these issues; policy and sector experts to hear about the changes that are needed; and councils who are working on the frontline to learn what they are doing to tackle these issues. The podcast launches on Tuesday 6 July.