Top nurses believe that people to look after two m Britons with long Covid are ” greatly inadequate.”
The Royal College of Nursing is concerned about a lack of expert NHS clinics and discrepancies in care throughout the United Kingdom.
Nurses work in the Acute Dependency Unit corridor at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south-west London.
Nurses’ leaders have alerted that NHS services for the two million Britons suffering from long Covid are “greatly inadequate” given the number of people diagnosed.
As per the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), there’s not enough specialist clinics to meet the increasing demand for treatment, with only a small number of patients receiving any help.
The number of persons in the United Kingdom suffering from Covid-related symptoms such as muscle pain, fatigue, and breathing difficulties has more than doubled in one year, from 1 m in May 2021 to 2 m last month, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The NHS has established clinics to diagnose, assess, and treat long-term Covid patients before referring them to other services, like the cardiology depts for those with heart issues.
“Existing services are dismally insufficient to address the level of demand,” according to the RCN. It also expresses concern that “treatment and diagnosis vary enormously across the United Kingdom, with long Covid regarded as a physical condition in certain clinics but mainly as a psychological problem in others.”
By July of last year, England had 89 long Covid health centers, Northern Ireland only had one, and Scotland and Wales had yet to open their first.
“There aren’t enough specialised services to fulfil rising demand,” said Helen Donovan, RCN’s professional lead for healthcare.
“Only a small proportion of the two million people who self-report having long Covid are aware of or have access to the available treatment.” In April, only 4,500 patients waited for an evaluation at a long Covid health centre in England.”
According to Donovan, nurses should be far more involved in giving care to long-term Covid patients considering their expertise to handle long-term conditions like cancer and diabetes. She explained that respiratory doctors usually run clinics alongside occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and psychologists.
“Around two m people in the United Kingdom live with long Covid, yet the govt continues to underestimate the magnitude of the problem this condition poses to people’s livelihoods, our public health services and the economy,” said Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the coronavirus all-party parliamentary group.
Meanwhile, data suggests that approximately half of all people with long Covid may have sleep disruptions.
Cinthya Pena Orbea of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, US, examined data from 962 patients who visited the Cleveland Clinic’s reCOVer Clinic between February 2021 and April 2022, which treats people with chronic and new Covid symptoms after 28 days of diagnosis. This group had 8% with severe sleep disturbances and 41% with moderate sleep disturbances.
Even after controlling for demographic factors, people with higher BMIs and anxiety were three times more prone to be impacted, and black patients were 3 times more prone to have moderate and severe sleep disturbances. The findings were made public at the Sleep 2022 conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In a separate study published in the journal Brain Science in April, 51% of those attending a long Covid clinic at Texas reported disrupted sleep, and bad sleep quality was linked to increased anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.
None of the study was able to determine whether people’s sleep problems were caused by anxiety or vice versa, or whether they were caused by other symptoms such as pain. “Future research should follow patients to see if fatigue, sleep, and mental health symptoms resolve on their own,” said Baylor College of Medicine lead researcher Sara Nowakowski.
“Long Covid is a fresh challenge for healthcare systems around the world,” a Department of Health spokesperson said, “and the UK is leading the way in research, treatment, and care.”
“We are investing over £50 million in world-leading scientists to understand better the long-term detrimental impacts of Covid, and the NHS has dedicated £224 million to support people in England with ongoing Covid symptoms through over 90 specialised clinics,” they added.