AN innovative service set up to support people experiencing long term effects of Covid-19 has seen 575 patient referrals since being launched earlier this year.
Members of the County Durham Care Partnership and other healthcare providers came together to develop a new model of care for people living with the debilitating long-term effects of Covid-19.
The Office of National Statistics reported in April 2021 that, nationally 1.1million people are experiencing symptoms of what has been named as ‘Long covid’ or ‘post-covid syndrome’ – this number continues to rise.
After moving quickly to successfully establish long Covid clinics early this year, a partnership of health professionals have gone a step beyond the national requirement to set up post-covid syndrome assessment clinics to develop a fully integrated treatment service.
The aim of this is to be person-centred – putting the patient at the heart of the service – with access to a range of specialists and therapies giving each patient the care they need depending on their individual symptoms.
Dr Jen Steel, GP and medical director for community services for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: “We know that a growing number of patients who have suffered from Covid-19 are still struggling with symptoms ranging from breathlessness, chronic fatigue, neurological symptoms, anxiety and stress, some of whom are unable to return to work even after several months. Thankfully, most people will make a full recovery without medical intervention, but this may take weeks or even months. However, for some the symptoms continue and can have an impact on their quality of life.
“As it is such a new condition, we are providing care at the same time as conducting research both locally and nationally which will help develop NHS services in the longer term.”
Dr Caroline Gibson, long Covid service GP said: “This is a fantastic resource ensuring individual wellbeing is at the centre of every contact made. Long Covid is an incredibly complex, multi-system, intertwined condition and we need to give a holistic, individualised response for each patient. As a result of this service, patients have a smoother and quicker journey to treatment. Added to this, the collaborative working from team members, from many specialities, leads to an integrated programme of care. We all work collaboratively towards that personalised plan for each individual.”
The service is available to anyone suffering symptoms that are likely to be due to Covid-19, regardless of location within County Durham or Darlington or whether they have spent time in hospital, or even had a positive test.
It is important that any person struggling with symptoms is initially seen and assessed by their GP.
Currently there is no self-referral to the service.
It is still early days for the new model of care as evidence and research continues to emerge and NHS services work to respond and adapt to the latest information and from patients attending clinics.