For months, parents have been campaigning for long Covid to be recognised in children – and slowly but surely, things are changing.
Fifteen specialist long Covid clinics for children and young people are going to be opened across England, the NHS has revealed, as part of a £100 million expansion of care for those suffering from the condition.
The paediatric hubs will draw together experts on common symptoms such as respiratory problems and fatigue who can directly treat children, advise family doctors or others caring for them, or refer them into other specialist services.
How common is long Covid in children?
More than one million people have reported suffering from long Covid, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
While the majority of children and young people are not severely affected by Covid, ONS data has shown that 7.4% of children aged 2-11 and 8.2% of those aged 12-16 report continued symptoms.
Earlier this year, parents told HuffPost UK how they felt helpless at how much their children’s lives had been disrupted by common long-term symptoms such as fatigue, body aches and headaches.
One father told us his son was “like a six-year-old in a 90-year-old’s body”. Chris Ward said his little boy Thomas first fell ill in February 2020 with a fever, breathlessness and aches all over his body. When he spoke to us in January 2021, his son was still suffering. Every few weeks, his temperature would soar, his glands would be constantly enlarged and his body ached most days.
In a bid to raise awareness of the impact the virus can have on children, parents joined forces to form the action group Long Covid Kids.
An informal survey of parents in the group found children affected were most commonly experiencing fatigue, sore throat, gastrointestinal issues, headaches, muscle pain, and weakness months after first becoming sick.
What is the purpose of the new hubs?
The new hubs for kids will bring together paediatricians, physiotherapists, nurses and occupational therapists, who will offer specialist advice to family doctors, community nurses and other staff seeing Covid patients aged up to 18, so they can get the help they need closer to home.
They will also see and treat complicated cases directly or refer them into other specialist services.
Where will the hubs be based?
- The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NuTH)
- South Tees NHS Foundation Trust (James Cook University Hospital)
- Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
- Leeds Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Hull University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
- Manchester Children’s hospital
- Birmingham and Solihull Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHSFT
- Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland University Hospital Leicester NHST
- Cambridge University Hospitals
- Bristol Children’s hospital
- Oxford University Hospitals
- Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth
- University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
- London hub led by the Evelina, Imperial, UCLH and GOSH
There is already a network of specialist long Covid clinics that have been given £34 million of funding, however some people have faced difficulties accessing them due to where they live.
While the launch of the hubs for young people will be welcome news to some – and an acknowledgement of how this condition affects kids – there’s a question as to whether just 15 hubs across the country will be enough to help the thousands of children suffering.
HuffPost UK has contacted the Long Covid Kids action group to hear their thoughts and will update this piece when we receive a response.