Background The economic impact of managing long COVID in primary care is unknown. We estimated the costs of primary care consultations associated with long COVID and explored its associated risk factors.
Methods Data were obtained on non-hospitalised adults from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink Aurum primary care database (472,173 COVID-19 patients and 472,173 matched non-COVID-19 individuals). We used a propensity score matching approach with an incremental cost method to estimate additional primary care consultation costs associated with long COVID (12 weeks after COVID-19) at an individual and UK national level. We applied multivariable regression models to estimate the association between risk factors and consultations costs beyond 12 weeks from acute COVID-19.
Results The estimated annual incremental cost of primary care consultations associated with long COVID was £2.44 per patient and £23,382,452 at the national level. Among patients with COVID-19, a long COVID diagnosis and longer-term reporting of symptoms were associated with a 43% and 44% increase in primary care consultation costs respectively, compared to patients without long COVID symptoms. Older age, female sex, obesity, being from a white ethnic group, comorbidities and the number of prior consultations were all associated with an increased cost of primary care consultations.
Conclusions The costs of primary care consultations associated with long COVID in non-hospitalised adults are substantial. Costs are significantly higher among those diagnosed with long COVID, those with long COVID symptoms, older adults, females, and those with obesity and comorbidities.