With referrals of long COVID cases in Northamptonshire increasing in recent months, our county’s assessment service continues to provide local support for the population.

Over the past ten months, a system group has been developing support for people experiencing long COVID symptoms. Hosted by Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) in collaboration with system partners, the Northamptonshire post-COVID assessment service is making use of new national funding that covers the period up until March 2022. The countywide service currently offers virtual and face-to-face assessment depending on clinical need.

Delivering personalised care pathways is the desired outcome for the service. It offers physical, cognitive, psychological and low-level mental health assessments, aiming to provide consistent services for people with post-COVID syndrome (‘Long COVID’).

The support on offer is available irrespective of whether a patient was previously hospitalised or clinically diagnosed by a SARS-CoV-2 test. An individual’s GP serves as the countywide referral route for assessment, and to date, 698 people have been referred to the service (68% female and 32% male).

For some people, further therapeutic input, rehabilitation, psychological support, specialist investigation or treatment may be required following assessment. Northamptonshire’s assessment service refers patients on to existing services, co-ordinating care effectively. This could include an immediate referral through the Mental Health Screening Hub, should the individual become distressed.

Understanding the impacts of long COVID on an individual remains an ongoing process – and the group recognises that a large amount of research is still being undertaken to support what works well for people, and why. Early data shows those aged between 35 and 69 have been affected the most by long COVID.

As the service develops, ongoing plans for supporting local people will prioritise a reduction in health inequalities, basing strategies on a toolkit produced by Northamptonshire’s Population Health Programme Board Health Inequalities Task and Finish Group. At the end of September, long COVID assessment service work merged into the System Priority Respiratory Programme.