This finding raises important questions about how Long COVID is diagnosed, recorded, and managed in the NHS.
Numerous recent studies have used questionnaire research methods to determine the prevalence of Long COVID, with the most recent estimates suggesting that approximately 2 million people have the condition (REACT2) and that between 7.8% and 17% of COVID patients experience symptoms for more than 12 weeks (National Core Studies Programme).
By contrast, for a study published today in the British Journal of General Practice, the research team ran an analysis across the full electronic health records of 57.9 million patients in England, in order to identify all those with a diagnostic code for Long COVID entered by their GP. They found only 23,273 cases ever formally recorded between February 2020 and April 2021, in a sample covering 96% of the population. Cases ranged from 20.3 per 100,000 people in the East of England, to 55.6 per 100,000 in London, with 52.1 cases per 100,000 women compared with 28.1 cases per 100,000 men. Interestingly, levels of reporting also varied greatly between GP practices, and with the type of computer-based systems used by GPs to record patient information.