The NHS is to launch a new online Covid-19 rehabilitation service as thousands warn they continue to suffer debilitating symptoms months after contracting the disease.

The treatments will help those who have survived the virus but still have problems with their breathing, mental health or other complications.

New rehabilitation centres to help those most seriously affected by the virus are also expected to open across the country.

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It is thought tens of thousands of people could be helped by the new scheme, announced on the 72nd anniversary of the NHS.

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the new service showed the NHS increasingly using technology to provide care.

The scheme will be open to patients who were hospitalised with Covid-19 or suffered at home.

It will allow them access to a face-to-face consultation with their local rehabilitation team, usually compromising of physiotherapists, as well as nurses and mental health specialists. Those who need it will then be offered 12 weeks of online aftercare this summer.

Sir Simon said Covid-19 had been the “biggest challenge” in the NHS’s history.

Evidence shows that many survivors of the virus are likely to have significant ongoing health problems.

These can include breathing difficulties, fatigue, reduced muscle function, an impaired ability to perform everyday tasks and mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Later this month ministers will also publish the latest advice on how to aid recovery from the virus, which will be available to everyone.

The new rehab service was first piloted in Leicester, the site of the current outbreak.

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Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “I suffered from coronavirus firsthand so I know the impact it can have. I’m determined to ensure we have the best possible treatment for coronavirus, both to save lives, and to help anyone suffering from the aftershocks.”

He added: “We are learning about this disease all the time, and increasingly know that for some people, Covid-19 has debilitating lasting effects. So we are supporting the NHS to deliver long-term rehabilitation, and are investing millions into research.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer also paid tribute to the NHS on the anniversary of its founding.

In a video message talking about his personal experiences of the NHS, Sir Keir said it was “personal” for him, as his mother was a nurse who also suffered from a very rare illness.

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