People suffering from the after-effects of COVID-19 for longer than 12 weeks will be referred to a new service to help them recover.
The North Cumbria Long COVID Assessment service has been set up to look at the longer-term effects of the virus.
Long COVID usually presents with clusters of symptoms, many of which overlap.
They may include:
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Memory, concentration problems and “brain fog”
- Muscle pains, ongoing muscle weakness and reconditioning
- Chest heaviness or palpitations
- Ongoing cough
- Problems with speech or swallowing
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood changes and psychological problems
- Persistent loss of smell/taste
However, the list is not exhaustive and research is ongoing to discover more about the longer-term effects of the illness, as well as potential treatment options.
Barbara McCready, advanced specialist physiotherapist at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, has helped lead the work to develop the assessment service.
She said: “We know that for some patients the effects of COVID have been persistent and often very debilitating and this can need specialist treatment.
“The new service allows input from different professionals and can also allow a series of physical, cognitive or psychological assessments where needed.
“The treatment can range from self-care advice to patients having access to a range of healthcare professionals who can support with physical and mental health conditions. It also means patients can have access to the right healthcare professionals at the right point throughout their recovery.
“The launch of the new service is fantastic news for patients as we know many people have had an incredibly difficult recovery journey where symptoms have continued for a long time.
“As the effects of long COVID are wide-ranging it’s a huge boost to be able to assess each patient effectively and then tailor any treatment to their specific needs. In order to minimise patient fatigue, the assessments are usually done over the telephone, with attendances at clinics as and when required.”
Dr Matthew Lane, respiratory consultant at the trust, has also been involved in work to develop the service.
He said: “During the first wave of COVID we recognised that the illness would have lasting consequences for those patients hospitalised with it.
“As such our specialist respiratory physiotherapist service was adapted to offer support to these patients.
“Over time it became clear that additional inputs would be required and the service developed into a multi-disciplinary team approach, with good links to the health psychology team, the speech and language team and the respiratory clinic.”
National guidance defines long COVID as occurring when a patient has had symptoms for 12 weeks or more following a COVID infection.
Patients will not be referred into the service or diagnosed as having long COVID unless they’ve had symptoms for 12 weeks or longer.