Longer-term effects of COVID-19 infection

As the pandemic has progressed, in Scotland and also globally, there has been an increase in the clinical awareness of the longer-term effects of the COVID-19 virus, which has been referred to as ‘long-COVID’ or ‘post-COVID syndrome’.

Recent analysis published by King’s College London estimated that while most people with COVID-19 reported being back to normal in 11 days or less, around one in seven (13.3%) people had COVID-19 symptoms lasting for at least 4 weeks, with around one in 20 (4.5%) people staying ill for 8 weeks and one in 50 (2.3%) people suffering for longer than 12 weeks.

We recognise that rehabilitation, clinical input and research are all critical to ensuring our population’s recovery from the impacts of the pandemic. That is why we are prioritising the implementation of the ‘Framework for Supporting People through Recovery and Rehabilitation’, the development and rollout of a clinical guideline and    directly funding research into the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection.

This prioritises a need to understand how people have been affected by the virus, as well as an ongoing focus to consider the epidemiology and scale of the problems being experienced by people in Scotland and to act on recommendations to support recovery from COVID-19.

  • The Framework on Recovery and Rehabilitation from COVID-19 provides clear principles, priorities and objectives to support planning to meet increasing demand and to provide high quality person-centred rehabilitation in different settings. A National Advisory Committee on Rehabilitation is being convened to oversee its implementation and will be operational by the new year 2021.
  • A UK wide guideline on the persistent effects of COVID-19 on people is in development by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) working with the Royal College of General Practitioners and other partners. This is expected to be published before the end of the year.
  • The Chief Scientist Office has launched a call for research on the longer term effects of COVID-19 infection, to improve understanding of the longer term effects on physical and mental health and wellbeing in Scotland, and/or research with the aim of developing effective clinical interventions to support recovery and rehabilitation from COVID-19 infection. This is in addition to funding an ongoing study on the longer-term lung health of COVID-19-related acute respiratory distress syndrome survivors as part of an earlier call for rapid research on COVID-19, and supporting Scottish participation in the UK-wide Post-Hospitalisation COVID-19 study. 
  • A working group, chaired by Dr Nadine Cossette, is implementing actions to ensure people with mental health needs, that relate to hospitalisation from COVID-19, are able to access the right care and support for them.