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A reflection on the north east London Long Covid clinics

To mark the three-year anniversary of the first Covid-19 lockdown, we spoke to Dr Adam Ainley, Consultant Respiratory Physician at BHRUT and Clinical Lead for Long Covid across north east London about the Long Covid clinics.

“What a three years they’ve been…

We’ve come a long way in north east London. As I reflect on our journey and the progress made, there’s a lot to be proud of.

The Long Covid clinics across north east London were set up in December 2020, to meet the needs of those patients who still had lingering Covid-19 symptoms, following discharge from hospital.

It was a chaotic, not to mention busy, time! During the first wave, it was becoming increasingly clear to front line clinicians, that a significant number of patients were developing a range of complex and potentially serious post-infection symptoms. We had to act to set up services at scale and with speed.

The patient impact of these symptoms was quite staggering and had a very real bearing on their day to day lives. Many couldn’t go back to work and symptoms such as breathlessness and losing their sense of smell and taste took a toll on many.

I also recall the pressure our hospitals were under. Demand had more than doubled across our part of London and due to safety restrictions, a number of outpatient clinics were closed. International travel bans also made it difficult to recruit staff.

From a patient perspective, there were challenges around how their needs were met – numerous physical, social and emotional challenges that all had to be factored in. All of this was compounded by the mass of conflicting patient advice flying around.

We’ve managed to adapt over the years to meet patient needs in a more holistic way by working alongside them. For example, we’ve been able to utilise data and digital rehabilitation tools to tailor care, including using a Virtual Ward model for some patients. Exciting collaborations with English National Opera and Age UK around tackling exclusion are quite novel too and provide innovative ways to further develop our services.

Setting up brand-new clinical services, across a large footprint, in the midst of a pandemic wasn’t without challenges! With clinical staff leading the way, and working closely with NHS England, primary and secondary care colleagues, local authorities, the voluntary sector and providers, I’m proud of the way we collaborated to set up services in a more defined, clinically-driven way. There have been many patient stories of full recovery and many of them returning to work and finding support where they didn’t have it before.

My advice for anyone who suspects they may have Long Covid would be to seek help. See your GP so you can be checked out.”

Watch this clip to learn more about the symptoms and see the comments section for the videos in commonly spoken languages:…