County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust places cookies on your computer to improve our website. These cookies don't collect information that identifies a visitor and are all anonymous.� They are used to measure its performance and to provide enhancements to you while using the site. To find out more about the cookies we use, see our privacy policy. Close
High Contrast Sitemap

Durham leading the way with further improvements to trailblazing Long Covid service

Some of the long covid clinic team

There's more trailblazing success for the Long Covid service in County Durham and Darlington with the launch of an innovative programme of Group Intervention sessions - thought to be the first of their kind in the country.

Members of the County Durham Care Partnership and other healthcare providers came together earlier this year to develop a ground-breaking collaborative model of care able to tackle the complex and diverse symptoms experience by people living with the debilitating long-term effects of COVID-19.

Now the service had been further improved to include a series of specially designed virtual group sessions to provide tailored support, advice and education to allow people to develop their own personalised treatment strategies.

Each of the online session comprises around 12-15 participants and is led by a different clinical specialist. As well as allowing people to benefit from a large amount of clinician time and contact, the sessions are interactive. Patients can ask as many questions as they like and to hear and share from other patients' experiences through an interactive chat function.

The service has seen a marked prominence of mental health conditions in patients who attend assessment clinic. This often not initially recognised, as patients are referred primarily with ongoing physical symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness and brain fog and this has been their focus until that point.

Dr Caroline Gibson, Clinical Lead GP for the Long-Covid Service coordinated by County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust explain: "A unique aspect of the Group Intervention Sessions is that it incorporates a lifestyle medicine approach which considers broader factors such sleep, nutrition, physical activity and stress management to help people to develop and implement their own recovery strategies.

"It's only when we look at the person holistically in clinic that the mental health aspects and the wider reasons behind their symptoms begin to be recognised. This is one of the reasons why Lifestyle Medicine is becoming an increasingly important part of our approach to the treatment of Long Covid This helps people focus less on their physical symptoms, supporting them to understand all the different reasons that contribute to them feeling fatigued."

The Group Intervention Sessions model was very well received by health teams around the country when it was presented to the National Conference of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine in September 2021 and is already being used a model for similar services to be developed in different parts of the country.

To encourage a personalised care approach throughout the whole service, the Long Covid treatment pathway has been designed to work seamlessly from primary care through to secondary care to incorporate aspects of holistic care and Lifestyle Medicine right from the beginning focussing on what is important to the person seeking help

Lifestyle assessment and advice is considered right from the start of a patients long covid recovery programme starting with their initial discussion with their GP and continues for those who may need the support of the specialist Long Covid clinic. As part of their initial assessment patients are specifically asked about sleep, nutrition, mood, stress, substance use and activity levels both pre-covid and currently including their social context.

Comments from those who have attended the group intervention sessions has been positive. Here are some examples:

"I've felt reassured that my symptoms are normal for long COVID. The group has taught me a lot about how to pace myself and that setbacks are to be expected."

"Most importantly, it's helped me to not feel so alone in my daily struggles with long COVID. I've really enjoyed how the group interventions have been delivered. Thank you all for everything you have done!"

"Regular contact with professionals who can help was very reassuring. The breathing session was what I needed the most."

'As I was very, very nervous, I must have been the worst patient ever and they were brilliant with me and I can't thank them enough - could you please pass on my sincere thanks.'

Patient, Hysteroscopy Unit, Chester-le-Street Community Hospital