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St Helens residents with Long COVID encouraged to seek local health support

St Helens borough residents suffering with the effects of Long COVID are being encouraged to seek out local support services to help them overcome the debilitating effects of the illness.

Long Covid treatment pic

Article date: February 9 2023

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, it is estimated that 1.8 million people in the UK have since been affected by symptoms of Long COVID, which can result in prolonged effects of the disease lasting many months after the initial illness has passed.

Thankfully many people make a full recovery and less people are now at risk of getting Long COVID as the COVID-19 vaccination is effective at reducing the likelihood of getting lasting symptoms.  However, there are some people for whom symptoms continue.

Symptoms can include repeated extreme tiredness or fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pains, heart palpitations, insomnia, dizziness and joint pains. Even though some people may regain some senses lost during the initial illness, such as sense of smell, they can return in distorted form leading to even greater discomfort for sufferers.

Now St Helens Borough Council, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Cheshire and Merseyside ICB and other local health partners are encouraging people with Long COVID to come forward to get help as more support is made available to those suffering with the condition.

Help for patients with Long COVID can include sessions to help improve breathing, treatment to help manage fatigue and breathlessness as well as rehabilitation programmes to help improve overall fitness levels.

A designated support programme is being provided by Mersey Care's Long COVID multidisciplinary team to patients in the borough to help them overcome the effects that Long COVID may be having on their health.

One resident with Long COVID symptoms, Sue from St Helens, found that reaching out for help with the condition made a positive impact on her daily life.

She said: "I didn't know anyone with Long COVID, but I joined a local support group and found others to have the same type of symptoms as me and it was then I realised it was Long COVID. After this I went to my GP who diagnosed me with Long COVID and referred me into the Long COVID Service".

Sue adds: "The Long COVID Service support I've had since has been brilliant! I feel understood and listened to. The peer group and Long COVID groups are great too as it's amazing to see so many with similar symptoms, so I feel less alone".

Another resident Liz, also from St Helens, found herself suffering with breathlessness, constant aches and pains, and tiredness, months after contracting COVID-19 and has even had to change jobs because of the long-term effects of the illness.

She said: "I can't do the things I would have done before COVID. I avoid stairs because it makes me too breathless, I sleep more than I used to, and I even had to change my job to a slightly less physical role".

With the treatment Liz has received for Long COVID, she has managed to improve her breathing and is starting to receive help with increased anxiety she has experienced since contracting the condition.

Councillor Anthony Burns, St Helens Borough Council Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Communities & Culture said: "Although some people are able to make a complete recovery, for others it can be an extremely unpleasant experience and it can also cause disruption in their lives, in some cases leaving them unable to work, spend time with their families and enjoy any kind of normal life.

"However, there is now strong support available to them from our local health services and we would urge anyone who is being affected by Long COVID to get in touch with your GP initially, as soon as possible."

Anyone in St Helens borough suffering with suspected Long COVID symptoms should contact their GP initially. From there, your GP will make an assessment and diagnose Long COVID if appropriate. You may then be referred to the Long COVID Service in St Helens for further assessment.

The role of the service is to assess need enable access into supporting services who can help with managing the symptoms associated with a Long COVID diagnosis. As a service, they do not provide diagnostic testing which is why it's important to see your GP in the first instance.

Matt Oultram, Operational Manager at St Helens Long COVID Service said: "Each patient may have different issues due to their Long COVID and our aim is for them to see the right people to help and meet their needs. We help them find resources and/or treatments to manage their symptoms effectively so they can rehabilitate to living a fulfilling life."

Ruth du Plessis, Director of Public Health at St Helens Borough Council, said: "Long COVID has become a largely hidden burden during the past two years for many people who have found themselves still suffering with symptoms from the virus months after they had the initial illness.

"If you are suffering with Long COVID symptoms, please seek help. There are excellent local health services available that will be able to give you the support you need."

If you are being affected by Long COVID, contact your GP in the first instance, and further information can be found on Mersey Care's website. If you are isolating and need advice or support for food or medication, contact St Helens Together on 01744 676 767.