Long Covid services being established in Northern Ireland
Health Minister Robin Swann has announced new services for the treatment and assessment of post-Covid-19 syndrome, also known as ‘long Covid’. It comes as the latest study reports around 21,000 people living with the condition in Northern Ireland.
The services include the establishment of a new multidisciplinary assessment service for post-Covid-19 patients.
Speaking today, Minister Swann said:
“Covid-19 has presented many challenges, not least for our health service. And whilst we will continue to live with Covid-19 for some time yet, we need to focus on rebuilding our services in a post-covid era. That is a challenge. That is the legacy of Covid-19. We need to build back better and stronger than before and to deal with the issues coming our way post-pandemic.
“Providing appropriate assessments and treatments for patients who are experiencing long-term effects of Covid-19 is an essential part of building back services.”
The services will be in place across all Health and Social Care Trust areas and be open to referrals from both primary and secondary care.
Concluding, the Minister said:
“The new services will offer dedicated support for the assessment and treatment of post-Covid-19 syndrome over the short and medium term. The proposed model will also strengthen core services for psychology and post-critical care recovery in the long term including follow-up services for patients.”
It is anticipated that the services will be established by end of October 2021. In the meantime patients displaying long COVID symptoms will continue to be treated via existing services in both primary and secondary care.
Elements of the new service will include:
• Bespoke pulmonary rehabilitation / dysfunctional breathing service for patients with significant respiratory symptoms post COVID-19;
• Follow up services for patients discharged from critical care (both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19);
• Strengthening psychology support to all Trusts; and,
• Signposting and access to self-management resources
The NICE guideline on managing the long-term effects of COVID-19 refers to “post-COVID-19 syndrome” for those people whose symptoms have not resolved by 12 weeks defined as:
• Signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.
The service proposals build on the NICE guidance as well as experience from across the UK.
Funding of £1m has been secured for post-Covid-19 services as part of the Covid-19 exercise at June monitoring.
The ONS published a study on Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK on 04 June 2021, which estimated 1.0 million people living in private households in the UK (1.6%) were experiencing self-reported long COVID. Of these, 862,000 lived in England, 50,000 in Wales, 87,000 in Scotland, and 21,000 in Northern Ireland.