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
"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
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
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
"Regular contact with professionals who can help was very
reassuring. The breathing session was what I needed the
'Every aspect of my emergency care was dealt with quickly,
efficiently and professionally with full explanations and
compassion from all staff involved'.
Patient, Emergency Department, Darlington Memorial Hospital