As we all learn more about Covid-19, one thing that’s becoming clear is that for many people who’ve had it, the road to full recovery could be a long one.
Tens of thousands of people who’ve had the virus – even those who suffered fairly mild symptoms – are now reporting longer term effects, including persistent fatigue or being quick to tire, ongoing breathlessness, muscle weakness, gut problems, partial loss of taste and smell, and susceptibility to other infections.
Some patients also report mental health problems such as heightened anxiety, depression and fear of reconnecting with other people. In some cases, the long-term mental health effects are being compared to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
In response, the NHS is developing a new on-demand recovery service called “Your Covid Recovery”. It will see nurses and physiotherapist on hand to reply to patients’ needs, either online or over the phone. It follows the building of a new Seacole rehabilitation centre to help those most seriously affected by the deadly virus, with similar facilities expected to open across the country.
Patients who’ve been in hospital or suffered at home with the virus will also have access to a face-to-face consultation with their local rehabilitation team, usually comprising physiotherapists, nurses and mental health specialists. Following this initial assessment, those who need it will be offered a personalised package of online-based aftercare lasting up to 12 weeks. Currently in development, it will be available from later this Summer and will include:
- access to a local clinical team including nurses and physiotherapists who can respond either online or over the phone to any enquiries
- an online peer-support community for survivors – particularly helpful for those who may be recovering at home alone
- exercise tutorials that people can do from home to help them regain muscle strength and lung function in particular
- and mental health support, which may include a psychologist within the online hub or referral into NHS mental health services along with information on what to expect post-Covid.
Announcing the package of help, NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Covid-19 has been the biggest challenge in the NHS’s history, and the fact we’ve come through the first peak without services being overwhelmed and being able to give expert care to everyone who needed it, is testament all our frontline and support staff.
“Now, as we look ahead to the next phase of our response, the health service is embracing the best that new technology can offer us to meet the significant level of new and ongoing need. Rolling out ‘Your COVID Recovery’, alongside expanding and strengthening community health and care services, is another example of how the NHS must bring the old and the new together to create better and more convenient services for patients.”
One of the healthcare experts developing the ‘Your Covid Recovery’ platform is Professor Sally Singh, from the University of Leicester. She said: “We know the impact of Covid on people can be far reaching and complex. ‘Your Covid Recovery’ is specifically designed to support people in their recovery post-coronavirus. It will be one of the first sites in the world rolled out nationally seeking to address potential post-Covid symptoms and support people on the road to recovery.