While many of those who have Covid-19 go onto fully recover, we know there are also lots of people who suffer long-term effects caused by the virus, which include breathing difficulties, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and hair loss.
Therefore, we have set up a Long Covid clinic to support not only patients discharged from our hospitals, but also those in the community who may be struggling with long-term effects 12 weeks later. Those in the community are referred via their GP.
Respiratory consultant Dr Adam Ainley oversees the clinic. While the referral process was formalised this February, we’d already recognised a need to support these patients straight after the first wave.
Adam said: “We ran a respiratory post-Covid clinic from July last year, seeing up to 250 patients between six and 12 weeks after their discharge, to review their on-going issues. My colleagues and I were supported by our trainees and saw a range of patients with complex issues. This really helped us to be ahead of the game when Long Covid clinics started to be rolled out nationally towards the end of last year.
“It was a real team effort during the pandemic to establish a new service on top of existing pressure faced by our Respiratory team. It’s been a great collaborative effort working together with the North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) to support our patients.”
The strength of our Long Covid clinic is the range of professionals working together, across our Trust and NELFT. At their first appointment, patients will see Adam, as well as a clinical psychologist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist. Not all patients require medical interventions, with many requiring focused therapy-led care to support their recovery.
Adam added: “We’re a small but enthusiastic team running a new and evolving service. At that first appointment patients get to spend time with each professional and it allows us to assess what support they need and hopefully provide them with the help they need in their on-going recovery.
“Some patients may continue on just one of those paths, whereas some may need to continue to see all four professions. We can also refer them to other specialties if required.”
Debbie Feetham, Assistant Director - Intermediate Care, NELFT, added:
“Within the Long Covid team we are working on linking our services with local opportunities like, Singing for Health and virtual gym workouts, to provide optimal interventions to better patients’ wellbeing and support their recovery.
“We have had really positive feedback from our early referrals, and are currently working together to make ourselves as widely available as possible. We also have cross over with other services, and are finding we’re able to support these teams, who have experienced additional pressure from the pandemic, allowing them to focus care on their own specialist caseload, but are readily available to support our team as needed.
“We’re look forward to expanding the team as we start work on new NELFT-BHRUT systems as demand increases.”
Following their initial face-to-face consultation in the clinic at King George Hospital, patients could benefit from a range of support either face-to-face or virtually using online resources or mobile applications.
Adam added: “In line with evolving evidence and global understanding on the impact of Covid-19 in patients, we are continually reviewing other interventions might benefit our patients. For example, this week we’re launching a pilot offering virtual Singing for Health sessions.
“We’ve also had really positive feedback from patients of the clinic so far, they feel someone is listening to them and are pleased they get to see all professions in one afternoon. Some have told us the thing they most appreciated about that first appointment was that all different aspects of their illness are assessed in one go.”
Read more about our Singing for Health pilot.