Long Covid Clinics “a lifeline” for patients, says Telford GP

18 February 2022

Long Covid Clinics “a lifeline” for patients, says Telford GP

A Telford GP has hailed Long Covid Clinics “a lifeline” for patients suffering with this debilitating condition and is urging those who are struggling to come forward and get referred to the service.

Military veteran, Dr Neil Harris, a GP from Newport, Telford, has praised the Long Covid Clinic service team in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin for their “unwavering care, support and understanding”.

Symptoms of Long Covid, also known as Post Covid Syndrome, are wide-ranging and fluctuating. They can include chest pain and palpitations, bowel disturbance, breathlessness, muscle weakness, chronic fatigue, brain fog, concentration difficulties, anxiety and stress as well as multiple other problems. However, many patients recover with support, rest, symptomatic treatment and with a gradual increase in physical activity.

The 53-year-old, who has recently been discharged from the clinic, caught Covid-19 during the first wave of the pandemic. His wife and two children contracted the illness back in March 2020, and after caring for his family in lockdown, he went on to contract the virus and became extremely ill – subsequently being off work for 10 months.

Dr Harris’ children have also missed much of the last two years of school and his wife has had to give up her job to become their full-time carer. The only source of advice and help at the time was the NHS 111 Service and the family were repeatedly told they were not ill enough to go into hospital and should rest at home in isolation.

He said: “It was a terrifying time. We have always been a very active family but for months were unable to do little more than lie in bed or sit in a chair. The virus seemed to work through every system of our bodies but in a different way for each of us.

“For me, losing the top half of my vision for several months and not being able to remember my children’s names was the worst part. I do remember being able to walk to the end of the drive to join in with the last Thursday night clap for the NHS, before that I was bed and chair bound.

“Our GPs at Lynden Hall in Newport were amazing at what must have been an extremely difficult time for them and did everything in their power to help. The problem was, at that time, nobody knew anything about this disease and everyone thought it was a two-week respiratory illness. I’ve gone on to have lots of scans, x-rays and blood tests. Unfortunately, the results did not help identify what was going on.

“Nobody had any answers and we struggled to understand what had happened to us. The whole experience was very isolating and distressing, and it was months before Long Covid was formally recognised as a real condition.

“We first started getting information from social media support groups like Long Covid Kids which helped. Sadly, at this point, the Long Covid Clinics had not been set up. My advice to anybody in a similar situation would be to ask their GP to refer them as soon as they can.

“We were extremely lucky to get so much help from our GP in terms of investigations and referrals and were quickly referred to the Long Covid Clinic as soon as it became available. I remember our first Zoom appointment for the children being quite emotional. The level of support and validation was incredible – it was like the cavalry had arrived.

“Between our GP and the Long Covid Clinic, we have been referred to multiple specialists. The care, support and understanding we continue to receive from our multi-disciplinary team has been unwavering.”

Dr Harris went on to point out that validating and supporting Long Covid patients is vital.

He added: “I don’t think the team realised what an impact their care and kindness had on us at a time when we were extremely ill and vulnerable. My message to anybody who thinks that they are suffering the after-effects of a Covid infection would be to see your GP and get referred to the Long Covid Clinic as soon as you can.”

Dr Louise Warburton, Associate Medical Director of Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust, who works within the Long Covid Clinic service in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, added: “Long Covid affects many people who have contracted Covid-19, and can be debilitating for those living with it.

“Although, we are still learning about the long-term effects of Covid and how this can affect people differently, it’s important that people know that they are not on their own – and that support is available.

“In Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, more than 800 referrals have been made into the Long Covid Clinics and it’s great to hear the positive impact and care Dr Harris and his family received from the service.”

The Long Covid Clinic service in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin provides both face-to-face and virtual appointments.

At the initial appointment, patients can find out the care and support that’s available to them and the next steps, which may be to have some more tests, see one of the specialist clinicians that form part of the Long Covid Clinic or be referred into other existing services, as well as where to get further help and advice from.

The service is open to children and adults across the county who have had symptoms of Covid for more than 12 weeks.

Anyone who has had symptoms of Long Covid for 12 weeks, or more, should contact their GP who can refer into the service.

Further information about the Long Clinic Service in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin can be found here: Long Covid Clinic (stwics.org.uk)

Pictured is Dr Neil Harris, who has praised the Long Covid Clinic team in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin for the care and support that has been provided by them to him and his family.

Page last updated 18 February 2022