Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background: Long COVID potentially increases healthcare utilisation and costs. However, its impact on the NHS remains to be determined. Methods: This study aims to assess the healthcare utilisation of individuals with long COVID. With the approval of NHS England, we conducted a matched cohort study using primary and secondary care data via OpenSAFELY, a platform for analysing anonymous electronic health records. The long COVID exposure group, defined by diagnostic codes, was matched with five comparators without long COVID between Nov 2020 and Jan 2023. We compared their total healthcare utilisation from GP consultations, prescriptions, hospital admissions, A&E visits, and outpatient appointments. Healthcare utilisation and costs were evaluated using a two-part model adjusting for covariates. Using a difference-in-difference model, we also compared healthcare utilisation after long COVID with pre-pandemic records. Results: We identified 52,988 individuals with a long COVID diagnosis, matched to 264,867 comparators without a diagnosis. In the 12 months post-diagnosis, there was strong evidence that those with long COVID were more likely to use healthcare resources (OR: 8.29, 95% CI: 7.74–8.87), and have 49% more healthcare utilisation (RR: 1.49, 95% CI: 1.48–1.51). Our model estimated that the long COVID group had 30 healthcare visits per year (predicted mean: 29.23, 95% CI: 28.58–29.92), compared to 16 in the comparator group (predicted mean visits: 16.04, 95% CI: 15.73–16.36). Individuals with long COVID were more likely to have non-zero healthcare expenditures (OR = 7.66, 95% CI = 7.20–8.15), with costs being 44% higher than the comparator group (cost ratio = 1.44, 95% CI: 1.39–1.50). The long COVID group costs approximately £2500 per person per year (predicted mean cost: £2562.50, 95% CI: £2335.60–£2819.22), and the comparator group costs £1500 (predicted mean cost: £1527.43, 95% CI: £1404.33–1664.45). Historically, individuals with long COVID utilised healthcare resources more frequently, but their average healthcare utilisation increased more after being diagnosed with long COVID, compared to the comparator group. Conclusions: Long COVID increases healthcare utilisation and costs. Public health policies should allocate more resources towards preventing, treating, and supporting individuals with long COVID.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Medicine

Publication Date