A network of specialist clinics helping people suffering from the long-term effects of coronavirus has grown to more than 60 sites, the NHS has announced, including trusts serving Cumbria and Northumbria.

Hundreds of patients are already receiving help from the 69 assessment centres that are taking referrals from GPs of people who could be battling long Covid.

NHS England said patient referrals include those experiencing brain fog, anxiety, depression, breathlessness, fatigue and other debilitating symptoms.

Plans for some 43 clinics were previously announced by NHS England in November, which has provided £10 million for the network.

Among trusts where the specialist services can be found are the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust and the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

The health service highlighted that research suggested one in five people with coronavirus develop longer term symptoms.

Office for National Statistics data also indicates around 186,000 people suffer problems for up to 12 weeks.

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: "The NHS is taking practical action to help patients suffering ongoing health issues as a result of coronavirus.

"Bringing expert clinicians together in these clinics will deliver an integrated approach to support patients to access vital rehabilitation, as well as helping develop a greater understanding of long Covid and its debilitating symptoms."

The specialist clinics bring together doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to offer physical and psychological assessments and refer patients to the right treatment and rehabilitation services.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is also due to issue official guidance on best practice for recognising, investigating and rehabilitating patients with long Covid.

The "living" guidelines, developed with the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (Sign) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), will be updated as new evidence relating to long Covid emerges.

They state that people may have "ongoing symptomatic Covid-19" if their symptoms persist from four to 12 weeks and could have "post-Covid-19 syndrome" if symptoms are not resolved after 12 weeks.

The guidelines note there is only "minimal, though evolving" evidence covering long Covid, but set out advice for doctors on how to assess potential sufferers, plan their care and monitor and manage their condition.

One recommendation includes informing patients that it is not known if over-the-counter vitamins or supplements are "helpful, harmful or have no effect in the treatment of new or ongoing symptoms of Covid-19".

The guidelines include an emphasis on the need to address health inequalities in care for people experiencing ongoing symptoms, be that as a result of language barriers, mental health conditions, a learning disability or cultural differences. They also recommend more proactive follow-up for people from vulnerable or high-risk groups who could be at increased risk of complications.

Dr Graham Burns, clinical lead at the long Covid centre at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, said: "In the first wave of the pandemic many people did not recover as quickly as they'd expected. We had no idea what long Covid was – the world had never seen Covid-19 before.

"We set up the clinic in Newcastle to support patients, but it has also been invaluable in helping us understand what long Covid is.

"I'm delighted that patients now have places to turn to across the country and, on a national scale, doctors will be able to learn from our collective experience and offer tailored support to patients."