The NHS is launching Long COVID services for children, as concerns grow about the number of young people experiencing long-term symptoms.
Fifteen paediatric hubs will be created in England, drawing together experts on symptoms such as respiratory problems and fatigue.
They will treat young people, advise family doctors or other carers, or refer patients to other specialist services and clinics.
More than one million people have reported suffering symptoms for weeks or even months after being infected with the virus and it is expected that hundreds of thousands of these need support.
Around a third of sufferers have said that the symptoms – which include extreme fatigue, respiratory problems and “brain fog” – have a significant impact on their daily lives.
While children are less likely to suffer severe disease, data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that 7.4% of children aged between two and 11 and 8.2% of those aged 12 to 16 report continued symptoms.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens is expected to announce the children’s hubs later today.
He will say: “The NHS has worked hard to care for 400,000 COVID patients requiring hospital treatment and keep essential services going through successive waves and we now need to step up action to deal with the legacy.
“One of the major health challenges emerging from the pandemic is Long COVID with hundreds of thousands of people predicted to suffer debilitating health issues such as breathing problems and fatigue.
“That is why the NHS is now going to invest £100m in specialist services, including care for children and young people so that parents know advice is on hand through the new hubs to provide patients and their families with the help, support and care that they need.
“This is just the latest example of how NHS staff have pulled out all the stops to provide care for those who need it throughout this terrible pandemic.”
There is already a network of Long COVID clinics which have been given £34m of funding and around £70m will extend these and set up the new children’s hubs.
Claire Hastie of Long COVID Support, whose Facebook group has more than 40,000 members, said: “We very much welcome this additional investment in Long COVID services, including paediatric hubs.
“Our survey of our [adult] members’ experiences in seeking referral to Long COVID assessment services (which are available only in England) shows that currently only half are successfully referred, and most of them face lengthy waits for investigations.
“Broadening investment beyond assessment to focus on treatment and rehab is much needed, particularly as vast numbers of people have been ill for over a year, had little to no help and have been unable to go to work or school.
“Although limited in number, the paediatric hubs are recognition of the impact that Long COVID can have on children.
“My 12-year-old twin sons continue to experience relapses every three to four weeks 15 months since falling ill, and I have several friends whose children have been suffering immensely for months.”