$50 million funding for long COVID

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed a report from a parliamentary inquiry recognising the role of GPs in managing long COVID but says patients need urgent support.

The government also announced $50 million further funding for long COVID research from the Medical Research Fund.

Earlier this week, the House of Representative Health Committee released the findings of an inquiry into long COVID and repeated COVID infections, to which the RACGP made a submission.

The committee made nine recommendations, including developing guidelines for long COVID diagnosis and treatment, support and education for GPs to diagnose and manage long COVID patients, and a national research program for COVID-19 and long COVID.

RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins welcomed the report.

“GPs across Australia are caring for people with long COVID – this is a debilitating illness, and much more needs to be done to understand it and support those experiencing it,” she said.

“I’m pleased the report recognises the essential role of GPs in diagnosing and caring for people with long COVID. GPs are experts in managing chronic disease and are best placed to provide ongoing care for those experiencing long COVID and coordinating the patient’s care with other specialists and health professionals.

“The report also recognises the challenges GPs face because this is a new disease and we don’t even have an agreed definition of long COVID for use in Australia, let alone clinical guidelines to help GPs diagnose and care for people with long COVID. The development of these key clinical tools will make a big difference for people with long COVID.

“Many of the committee’s recommendations reflect what the RACGP called for in our submission, including greater investment in data collection and research into long COVID. Research funding should be directed to general practice, where the bulk of patient care is taking place.

“The RACGP also wants to see ongoing support for the National Clinical Evidence Taskforce. The taskforce plays an essential role in collating and analysing emerging international evidence into COVID-19 and long COVID, and we need this to maintain a living guideline for GPs and other specialists and health professionals in Australia to ensure patients get the best evidence-based care.”

The RACGP president also called for immediate support for long COVID patients.

“It’s disappointing the report doesn’t recommend immediate measures for people suffering distress and disability from long COVID,” she said.

“Patients’ Medicare rebates don’t adequately support people with long COVID. It’s a complex chronic condition and it requires more of a GP’s time, but the current patient rebates penalise GPs for spending longer with patients.

“The RACGP is continuing to call on the federal government to increase patient rebates for longer consultations to ensure people with complex conditions, including long COVID, can get the care they need.

“COVID-19 and long COVID are here to stay. Vaccination is our best protection against this virus, and it reduces the risk of long COVID. But for those who do contract long COVID, access to evidence-based medical care and support is essential to ensure they have the best chance of recovering and living a full life.”

An RACGP resource on caring for adult patients with post-COVID-19 conditions can be found here.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is the peak representative organisation for general practice, the backbone of Australia’s health system. We set the standards for general practice, facilitate lifelong learning for GPs, connect the general practice community, and advocate for better health and wellbeing for all Australians.

Do you know anyone with long COVID? Has their GP taken it seriously? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Is this the calm before another winter COVID peak?

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