Erin Dean, a freelance health journalist, recently visited a long covid clinic in Berkshire to see how their multidisciplinary team are supporting people with this poorly understood condition.
His report found nearly 100 NHS long covid clinics have been established to support people struggling with ongoing symptoms. These clinics provide multidisciplinary assessments and tailored care plans. Common symptoms are fatigue, breathlessness, brain fog, and muscle pain. The clinics are part of NHS England’s response to managing long covid.
The article profiles the long covid clinic at the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust. The clinic is led by a consultant anaesthetist and includes physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists. Patients describe fatigue, breathlessness and other debilitating symptoms continuing for months after initial covid infection. The clinic provides 45 minute assessments and referrals for further diagnostics or community rehab.
The care model focuses on listening to patients, validating their experiences, providing explanations, and teaching self-management approaches like pacing. Medications can help some symptoms but there are no specific long covid treatments. Patients initially hoped for a quick fix but now understand it is a complex, long-term condition. Staff emphasize the importance of compassion and community in caring for these patients.
Data on the clinics’ outcomes is still being gathered but emergency department visits and patient feedback surveys show positive results so far. However, the long haulers with symptoms for over a year seem to struggle most with recovery. Referrals are now decreasing across the country as the pandemic wanes. The future model of care and funding is unclear.
In conclusion, while some “centres of excellence” exist, patient experiences are mixed across the country. However, the rapid development of long covid care has catalysed innovations like multidisciplinary care that could benefit those with other chronic conditions. Continued support for long covid patients remains important given the long-term nature of the condition.
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