The term ‘long COVID’ is commonly used to describe signs and symptoms that continue or develop after an acute COVID infection for over 4 weeks, that cannot be explained by an alternative medical diagnosis.
Long COVID and the importance of research
In the UK, many organisations and individuals are involved in long COVID research, including the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), National Health Service (NHS), universities, local government, other research funders, patients and members of the public.
Long COVID remains a relatively new condition and research has an important role to play to:
- Improve the understanding of the long-term effects of COVID
- Identify how to effectively manage and support people with long COVID
- Understand the experiences of those living with long COVID symptoms
- How particular medicines and vaccines impact on long COVID
Work is also being undertaken by the Office of National Statistics to provide regular updates on the estimated number of people self-reporting ongoing symptoms following COVID. You can find more information on the updates from the Office of National Statistics here.
What long COVID research is going on in the UK?
The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has awarded more than £50 million to new research studies to help improve understanding of long COVID, from diagnosis and treatment through to rehabilitation and recovery.
Information outlining the NIHR’s long COVID research and other long COVID activities is available on their website.
The NIHR have also published a new themed review that summarises NIHR long COVID research and the findings to date. This information is available here.
In addition to the NIHR funded studies, other long COVID research studies have started both in the UK and internationally. Findings from these studies are also used to inform how we care for people with long COVID in England.
How can I take part in long COVID research?
If you are interested in taking part in long COVID research, see Be Part of Research where you can review all the long COVID studies.
In England, research studies also recruit participants from the post-COVID services that have been set up to offer care and support to people with long COVID.
How is research used to inform care for people with long COVID?
In England, guidance on the treatment, management and support for people with long COVID is provided by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The guidance and advice is evidence-based and aims to ensure all healthcare professionals use it to provide safe and effective care.
NICE also monitors ongoing research to evaluate whether new treatments being studied via clinical trials should be used in the care of patients.
The General Medical Council (GMC), which sets the standards of good medical practice in the UK, requires that licensed doctors only prescribe medicines that provide effective treatment based on the best available evidence.
Latest evidence regarding treatments which are effective for long COVID is also shared with the clinical community via different communication routes (such as NHS supported online information, webinars and written communication to the system).
Useful links and information
The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) – The National Institute for Health and Care Research’s mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation through research. The NIHR funds, enables and delivers world leading health and social care research that improves people’s health and wellbeing and promotes economic growth.
Health Research Authority (HRA) – The Health Research Authority protects and promotes the interests of patients and the public in health and social care research.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence aims to improve outcomes for people using the NHS and other public health and social care services.