Most COVID infections go away within the first couple of weeks, but for some people, even those who weren’t seriously ill, these symptoms can last much longer. Having persistent symptoms is referred to as Long COVID. The symptoms are varied and can change over time.
The partners of Health and Care Portsmouth are working together to ensure there is adequate medical and community support for people living with Long COVID to complement the work being done by the NHS nationally.
Using data from the Office for National Statistics, as well as information on infection rates locally, we are working to establish prevalence in the city and identify where support could be improved. Particularly, we are focussing on peer support and in the workplace.
Local NHS providers (Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Solent NHS Trust and Isle of Wight NHS Foundation Trust) have a number of clinics across Hampshire and Isle of Wight to help patients suffering from the effects of Long COVID.
The service is part of a £10m initiative by NHS England, which is funding 69 clinics across the country – six of these being in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Patients referred into the Long COVID service will be asked to fill out a questionnaire and will then undergo a number of physical, cognitive and psychological assessments. Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) will then work alongside other health teams to develop a support plan that will help improve their health outcomes and quality of life.
Patients will also be signposted to existing Long COVID support services and will have access to the ‘Living with COVID’ App, offering patients education, support and encouragement.
Dr Hayden Kirk, Clinical Director at Solent NHS Trust, said:
“We know it is vital that people with Long COVID get the support they need. Through our partnership working within the NHS, we will be able to draw on existing specialist services across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in a coordinated manner to address every person’s individual needs to ensure they can benefit from a wide range of specialist advice.”
The service is available by GP referral only and is available to anyone who is still experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 for more than 12 weeks.
You can also access support through Nuffield Health’s free-to-access COVID-19 Rehabilitation Programme. The programme, developed by a multi-disciplinary team of experts, runs in over 40 sites across the country. Gentle exercise is great for some, but not for everyone. When symptoms such as disabling fatigue or exhaustion, difficulty thinking, pain, or other symptoms are made worse by exercise this is known as post-exertional malaise. It is important that with any service you check whether they can screen for, and support, post exertional malaise.
Further information can also be found on the Healthwatch website.
If you’re looking for information on how Long COVID can affect children, or are looking after a child presenting symptoms, the Long Covid Kids charity provides a host of information and resources.
Long COVID shares many characteristics with other long-term health conditions, in terms of both symptoms and the impact it can have on people’s daily lives. For those in education or employment there is also the worry of how to navigate their work and education with their symptoms. This could mean sickness absences or reduced capacity.
We do not yet have a full picture of the impact Long COVID will have on the workforce, but it is important for those living with the illness to be supported to return to and stay in work or education.
If you are interested in how you can best support your students and employees you can read here to see research based suggestions on managing Long COVID.
Partners involved in the Long COVID project include: Portsmouth City Council, NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board, Solent NHS Trust, Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and Portsmouth Primary Care Alliance.