Offering hope and expertise: Newcastle's long covid clinic

Video report and Words by Health Correspondent Helen Ford

Long covid: it is a phrase we have probably all heard, yet less than a year ago, it was unknown. Now though, it's estimated that one in five people who contract covid will be left with a variety of prolonged and debilitating symptoms, many months later.

People are reporting long term symptoms from breathlessness and fatigue, to anxiety and depression. Together, these and other issues have come to be known as long covid.

Back in June, a team at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary established a long covid clinic; a centre where patients could come to be assessed  - in one visit - by a variety of specialists. Just as doctors are learning how to treat covid itself, they are also building a bank of knowledge to support patients whose symptoms continue long term. Dr Graham Burns, who is clinical lead at the unit, has now helped to write a template for other areas which are establishing similar services.

The clinic provides a detailed assessment for patients in one visit; those requiring additional treatment can be referred onto specialists elsewhere in the NHS. 

On my visit to the unit I met Julie Thompson, who was receiving her assessment after many months of struggling with a range of symptoms. Julie explained how long covid had changed every aspect of her life. Coming to the clinic had given her hope that things could change.

For those involved in treating long covid, there is much still to learn. Today, the NHS has announced that it has provided £10 million to support more than sixty long covid clinics across the country. There are five in the North East, including Newcastle, and two in North Yorkshire. At the same time, NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, has published official guidance on best practice for recognising and supporting patients with long covid.