PEOPLE in the North of Ireland who have long Covid will have access to new services dedicated to treating the condition, Health Minister Robin Swann has said.
They include an assessment service, which is expected to open by late October.
Long Covid is the name given to symptoms consistent with Covid-19 infection which last 12 weeks or more.
There are already specialist long Covid centres elsewhere in the UK.
Mr Swann said it was “an essential part of building back services” after the coronavirus pandemic.
Sufferers of long Covid have been campaigning for bespoke support since the condition was identified early in the pandemic.
A survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests about one-in-five people in the UK have symptoms of long Covid five weeks after an initial infection and one-in-seven after 12 weeks.
The latest ONS figures suggest 21,000 people in the North of Ireland are living with it.
That compares with 862,000 in England, 50,000 in Wales and 87,000 in Scotland.
Mr Swann said: “The new services will offer dedicated support for the assessment and treatment of post-Covid-19 syndrome over the short and medium term.”
There is no medical definition or list of symptoms shared by all patients – two people with long Covid can have very different experiences.
However, the most common feature is crippling fatigue.
Others symptoms include: breathlessness, a cough that won’t go away, joint pain, muscle aches, hearing and eyesight problems, headaches, loss of smell and taste as well as damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and gut.
Mental health problems have been reported including depression, anxiety and struggling to think clearly.
The Department of Health said services would be available across all health trust areas in Northern Ireland and would be open to referrals from primary and secondary care.
Services will include:
A bespoke pulmonary rehabilitation
Dysfunctional breathing service for patients with significant respiratory symptoms post Covid-19
Follow-up services for patients discharged from critical care
Strengthening psychology support to all health trusts and directing patients to self-management resources
In the meantime, patients displaying long Covid symptoms will be treated through existing services.Tags: