Professor Nawar Bakerly

Creating a gold standard of care for long Covid

Salford Royal is playing a key part in a £3.4 million research project to identify the best way to treat and support the one million people in the UK now living with long Covid.

The study aims to create a ‘gold standard’ approach for the treatment of long Covid by identifying best practice in providing services, ensuring people are supported quickly and receive the right treatments from the right healthcare professionals – in their own home, through their GP or at specialist clinics.

It will investigate how many people are unable to work due to long Covid and look at developing a vocational rehabilitation programme to support them back into employment.

The study is being led by the University of Leeds and Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Salford is one of 10 NHS sites, which collectively treat more than 5,000 people, to take part and work here is being led by Respiratory Consultant Professor Nawar Bakerly.

Long Covid refers to a set of symptoms including breathlessness, fatigue and brain fog that persist for longer than four weeks after contracting coronavirus. It’s estimated that around one million people in the UK – 1.5 per cent of the population – are affected.

Nine out of 10 of those reporting long Covid had symptoms for more than 12 weeks – and four out of 10 had experienced symptoms for at least one year.

Professor Bakerly said: “Long Covid is a devastating condition and this research will help us better understand the symptoms associated with it, and the best way we can manage sufferers and help them. This study will also help us develop the best models of care for patients with long Covid in the NHS.”

Former Salford Royal Consultant Dr Manoj Sivan, now Associate Professor in the School of Medicine at the University and a Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, is joint lead of the research programme.

He and the rehabilitation team in Leeds developed the first long Covid measure, called C19-YRS (Yorkshire Rehabilitation Scale). The questionnaire gives a standardised assessment of symptoms and how those symptoms affect a patient’s ability to lead their lives and was filled out during a phone call between patients and clinicians.

Now, as part of the new research, patients in Salford can instead download an app onto their mobile device, where they can quickly and easily update their symptoms and progress at varying stages of their recovery, allowing clinicians to make changes to their care management plan when necessary.

June Roberts, consultant nurse and associate director of Transformation at the Northern Care Alliance, said the use of the app had been welcomed by both the team and its patients.

“The C19-YRS was a good approach to support our initial assessments of patients and gave us a good holistic view, but it was tiring for patients. It’s great to have been involved in developing the app and our patients told us they wanted it too.

“It will really help patients visualise their progress and let them have informed discussions with their clinician,” she said. “It will also increase GP knowledge around the progress their patients are making as we can send information electronically to them too.”

  • The LOCOMOTION study is one of 15 new research projects across the UK that have been awarded nearly £20 million in total by NIHR to improve diagnosis and treatment of long Covid. LOCOMOTION stands for LOng COvid Multidisciplinary consortium: Optimising Treatments and servIces across the NHS.