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A service supporting people who have been affected by the pandemic or who are experiencing long Covid symptoms wants to learn how local communities have been affected.
The Long Covid Rehabilitation Service is hoping to further understand the impact the pandemic has had on people living in the Swansea Bay area.
Adults, children and young people in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are being encouraged to explain the ways in which the last 18 months have affected their lives so the support available can best meet their needs.
Long Covid is used to describe signs and symptoms that continue or develop after acute Covid-19 infection. It includes both ongoing symptoms of Covid-19 (between four and 12 weeks) and post-Covid-19 syndrome (more than 12 weeks) that is not explained by an alternative diagnosis.
Aimed at supporting a return to daily activities, the service for adults offers access to rehabilitation, targeted at understanding and improving each person’s health and well-being.
Based at the Bay Field Hospital, a team made up of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, respiratory nurses and dieticians is on hand to provide a more holistic approach to patient care.
There is also access to a GP with a special interest in lifestyle medicine.
The team focuses on issues such as breathlessness, fatigue, brain fog, cough, fitness levels, nutrition, anxiety and stress management.
Pictured: Patients exercising as part of the rehabilitation service
Lyn Bazley, from Neath, contracted Covid-19 at the beginning of the year and after experiencing fatigue and vision impairments in the months that followed, he was referred into the six week course by his GP.
“I contracted Covid-19 in January and it never really left,” the 59-year-old said.
“I’ve found the course really good. I’m a retired nurse and I didn’t think I would learn quite as much as I have but I now have a much better understanding.
“We have done relaxation classes, physical exercise and had educational lectures about different aspects of long Covid.
“It’s been really reassuring and it has answered a lot of questions. The team here have been brilliant. They are very welcoming, friendly, informative and very positive.”
His wife Carole, aged 58, also tested positive for Covid-19 in January and spent 12 days in Morriston Hospital as a result.
She has also made use of the Long Covid Rehabilitation Service after struggling with breathlessness in recent months.
Carole added: “I suffer with asthma anyway but I couldn’t breathe so they were scary moments.
“I have been coming to the sessions and they have supported me in getting out and about again as I hadn’t been going anywhere in fear of re-contracting the virus.
“The sessions also help you to mix with people again. It’s been comforting to be with people who are feeling a similar way to you.
“It has been superb and has really lifted me mentally. Everyone here has been so friendly.”
The health board would like to hear from people experiencing symptoms of long Covid so the service can be tailored in ways that best support their recovery.
It is encouraging adults, parents, guardians and young people to fill out a short survey about the impact of the pandemic on their health and well-being. See further down for details.
“Breathlessness, fatigue and brain fog are the three main symptoms we are finding people are experiencing in line with the research on long Covid,” said Nicola Perry-Gower, pulmonary rehabilitation clinical lead.
“It’s all about working out where the person fits in terms of Covid recovery and signposting them to the right area.
“Our main aim is to support patients on their journey of recovery and give them the right tools to manage their condition.”
Paul Dunning, professional head of staff health and well-being, added: “Our occupational health service also offers a specific service to staff experiencing long Covid and supports staff to remain in or return to work.
“The team are supporting working age people to either remain in work with advice around how to best manage symptoms in a work context or helping staff and their line managers to enable a return to work, where appropriate.”
Pictured: Pulmonary rehabilitation physiotherapist Emma Jenkins, occupational therapist Helen Davies, and physiotherapist Saoirse O’Broin
Alongside the existing service for adults, a service for children and young people will be introduced to help provide health and well-being support, and understand how the pandemic has impacted on their lives.
The pandemic saw schools temporarily close and social activities put on hold as young people faced ongoing disruption to their daily lives, resulting in stress and anxiety for many.
Amanda Atkinson, head of paediatric occupational therapy, said: “Children have experienced isolation, a reduction in access to usual activities including sports, music, drama and the results of substantial school closures.
“Some children are experiencing difficulties due to the effects of Covid on family and friends. Some may have experienced bereavement.
“Just like supporting an adult back to work, we hope to work with children and young people holistically, supporting them to participate in their important childhood activities.”
Alison Clarke, assistant director of therapies and health sciences, added: “The list of symptoms are wide and varied. They can fluctuate and can be debilitating for an individual who is returning to work or school, engaging in social, leisure and sporting activities.
“This is why it is so important to hear and learn from the public.
“We would like to thank them for completing the survey and helping us shape the service.”
You can fill out our surveys in either Welsh or English.