Demand for Long Covid services rockets as thousands battle the condition

Demand for Long Covid services has rocketed, as thousands continue to battle the condition.

UTV has been given access to the Western Trust's Long Covid team.

They provide clinics in Enniskillen, Omagh and Londonderry, with an average of 50 referrals a week.

Tracy McGuigan, a post-Covid respiratory nurse with the Western Trust, says the current number of referrals is probably "the tip of the iceberg".

"These are the individuals who have physically sought help.

"Of the people we've seen it the post Covid clinic the three main symptoms are fatigue, brain fog and breathlessness."

Staff are designing a program to aimed to help patients manage their symptoms, but ensure they get the right support.

Every Trust has a post-Covid service, and since November 2021 to June this year in NI, 2,467 people have been referred.

In the Western Trust alone, 450 referrals have been made - 234 of which have been assessed. 171 are currently waiting to be seen.

Teresa Sweidan, team coordinator with the Western Trust, said demand for the service is huge.

"At the moment we would have a waiting list of about 18 weeks.

"We pulled out all the stops.

"Any wait is not acceptable but we're doing the best we can".

Of the referrals to the Western Trust, one in four is living with psychological difficulties.

Dr Mary Dooher, a clinical psychologist with the Western Trust, said patients can suffer from anxiety and depression, among other mental health issues.

"They would be anxiety, stress, worry, depression and memory problems or the brain fog that people talk about and PTSD.

"If you're not able to go back to work, or your not able to do the things that you used to do, it does affect you as a person.

"A lot of the work we are doing with people is just building their confidence again". 

The post-Covid service has only been given funding for two years.

Frontline staff say this will need to be extended due to the demand, and called on politicians to restore the Executive in order to address the growing need.

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