Tens of thousands of people in Frimley and the surrounding areas could be suffering from long Covid, new estimates suggest.

The Long Covid SOS charity said more public awareness and research is needed to support those with the 'debilitating' condition.

The NHS GP Patient Survey found 4.7% of 8,256 respondents in Frimley and the surrounding areas said they were still experiencing symptoms more than 12 weeks after first having Covid-19 – up from 3.9% reported in 2022.

The survey asked people about their experiences with their local GP surgery from January to April 2023.

Using the most recent data for the number of people registered with a GP in Frimley Health and Care area, it could mean about 31,400 people aged 16 and older in the area were struggling with lingering health problems from the disease.

However, people who responded to the survey are likely more aware of their health problems so estimates may be high.

Ondine Sherwood, co-founder of Long Covid SOS, a charity set up to support people with the condition, said the proportion of people experiencing long Covid symptoms is very concerning.

She said: "It's difficult to assess why this survey has captured so many more people who have long Covid, but it has long been clear to us that there are many who may not have regained their previous levels of health after Covid but haven’t yet made a connection between the two."

She added the longer-term impact of Covid can be masked, particularly in older people and those with chronic conditions.

Across England, the percentage of patients saying they had long Covid symptoms increased from 4.4% in 2022 to 5% this year.

Ms Sherwood said there needs to be more public awareness about long Covid.

"The contribution it is making to the workforce crisis and healthcare burden on the NHS should not be underestimated. Many people now debilitated by long Covid were previously fit and healthy," she said.

"We need to get them well again so that they can return to making their contribution to society and to the economy. This means targeted research into treatments and best practice, and universal access to evidence-based rehabilitation."

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "Long Covid can have a debilitating impact and we are backing our world-leading scientists with over £50 million to better understand the long-term effects of this virus and make treatments available.

"We urge anyone who is concerned about long lasting symptoms to get in touch with their GP or visit the NHS 'Your Covid Recovery' website for further advice on the support available."