THOUSANDS of people in Warrington are suffering with long Covid, new estimates suggest.

The Long Covid SOS charity has called on the Government to stop ‘putting its head in the sand’ and take action to reduce the growing number of long Covid sufferers.

The annual GP Patient Survey polled patients in thousands of practices across England between January and April on various aspects of their health – including 26 in the NHS Warrington CCG area.

Patients were asked if they were still experiencing symptoms more than 12 weeks after they first had Covid-19 that could not be explained by something else.

Of the 2,597 respondents in Warrington, 112 (4.3 per cent) said they had symptoms of long Covid.

Applying this rate to the latest population estimate for the CCG area as a whole means 7,308 people aged 16 and over in the area could be suffering from lingering health problems.

Across England, 4.4 per cent of GP patients said they had long Covid symptoms – which can include fatigue, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations – or around two million people.

A Warrington Borough Council spokesman said: “The pandemic has had a major impact on people’s health.

“As we move to live with Covid, it is clear that due to its unpredictability, there are many parts of the disease that we still do not understand.

“Symptoms that persist for some people, known as long Covid, can have a huge impact on people’s lives.

“It is important that we continue with the good infection control practices implemented during the height of the pandemic.”

Warrington Hospital says it is ‘very proud’ to have a dedicated Long Covid Service to help residents suffering with the condition.

Residents are encouraged to get a Covid vaccine if they have not already done so

Residents are encouraged to get a Covid vaccine if they have not already done so

Initial referrals are made based on a person’s ongoing symptoms and impact on their life, and are not based on the severity of the initial illness or on a positive test result.

Long Covid SOS said long Covid rates are higher than estimates by the Office for National Statistics, but it is also possible that many people may not be aware that they have it at all.

Ondine Sherwood, co-founder of the charity, said most sufferers are unable to obtain any meaningful treatment, and for many even that is not available due to lengthy waiting lists.

She added: “The Government needs to acknowledge that this is a major issue impacting a significant proportion of the population and that it will lead to a massive burden of ill health on the NHS, on society and the economy.

“The Government needs to stop putting its head in the sand and start to act.”

She said stricter infection control measures, more healthcare investment and increased research funding are needed.

The GP survey showed that the vast majority (86.9 per cent) of patients who responded to the survey in Warrington said they did not have long Covid symptoms, but eight per cent said they were unsure and 0.8 per cent preferred not to answer.

The Royal College of GPs said post-Covid syndrome is still a relatively new condition, but the prolonged health effects that some experience can have a terrible impact on their lives.

Chairman Prof Martin Marshall said more resources are needed, including good access to appropriate rehabilitation services in the local community, and more staff working in general practice.

The Department of Health and Social Care said more than £50million has gone to help scientists understand the virus's long-term debilitating effects, while the NHS has committed £224million to support people with ongoing symptoms.

A spokesman added: “The best way to protect yourself from Covid is by getting the vaccine, and our world-leading programme has delivered over 150million jabs.”