Just over 13 months since Covid first arrived on our shores, a group of local long Covid sufferers have questioned the gov’s approach to the illness.
NHS England says for some people, coronavirus (Covid-19) can cause symptoms that ‘last weeks or months after the infection has gone’. This is sometimes called post-Covid-19 syndrome or ‘long Covid’.
A Manx woman, still suffering debilitating fatigue after more than 12 months explained: ‘The Isle of Man may have the facilities required, but the referral process is a mess and patients are not getting the help they need soon enough, whether young or old. My GP is doing her best, but GPs need more support, more training and clear referral options.’
‘In my case, I was referred to a specialist team at the hospital after about 8 months and only because I suggested it to my GP, having been told about it by a friend. My GP didn’t even know this service was available for long Covid patients! I know others have had similar experiences and share my frustrations.’
Those experiencing long Covid report a variety of symptoms, with surveys suggesting ‘Fatigue’ is the most prevalent issue for patients. According to NHS England common long Covid symptoms include:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- shortness of breath
- chest pain or tightness
- problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- heart palpitations
- pins and needles
- joint pain
- depression and anxiety
- tinnitus, earaches
- feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
- a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
Both on and off island ME sufferers have been fighting for recognition of and treatment for their illness for many years. The two illnesses share many traits and ME sufferers are concerned that shortcomings in advice given to ME patients are being repeated for long Covid sufferers. They have highlighted that although long Covid is still a developing field, post viral fatigue is not.
Phil Gawne, President of ME Support IOM, said that the current health minister has ‘repeatedly promised to establish a well-trained and suitably resourced fatigue service, staffed on the Isle of Man’.
Mr Gawne added: ‘This service should have been established well before the pandemic began and the disorganised nature of the island’s medical response has seen long Covid patients’ health deteriorating unnecessarily. Greater understanding of the long term effects will continue to develop, but in the meantime we must apply our existing knowledge, particularly in respect of post viral fatigue. Our island desperately needs an appropriately structured support service, to work alongside our hard working GPs, supporting long Covid and ME sufferers.
‘If the needless suffering of hundreds of people is not sufficient reason to act then surely the hundreds of thousands of pounds that could be saved in benefit payments to patients who could be helped back to more productive lives, or the substantial waste in both time and money on harmful misdiagnosis, inappropriate treatments and needless consultations, must surely help in justifying the establishment of a new service.’