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How we’re helping patients with debilitating ‘Long-COVID-19' symptoms

Naomi Le Touze, Senior Respiratory Physiologist at The Harley Street Clinic, home to one of HCA Healthcare UK’s Post-COVID-19 Recovery services, talks to us about the some of the wide-ranging symptoms that patients present with and how this service can help patients recover.

Around 300,000 people have reported COVID-19 symptoms which last more than a month, and 60,000 lasting more than three months in the UK. Whilst some may only experience mild symptoms, many are having to deal with debilitating after-effects and don’t know where to turn.  

It’s very important that these symptoms are treated early to avoid them having a longer-lasting effect, which is why the ‘Post Covid Recovery Service’ has been set up across the HCA Healthcare UK group; one is located at The Wellington Hospital in St Johns Wood, and the other at The Harley Street Clinic, where I am based.   

Patients who are experiencing troubling symptoms after contracting COVID-19 can self-refer to either one of these hospitals, and based on the symptoms that they discuss during this call, a virtual appointment with the most appropriate consultant will be arranged. From there, they will be referred for a number of tests, which is where my role comes into play.  
 
The patients who come to me for tests typically fit into two groups, although many other symptoms can be evident:  

1.       Respiratory symptoms – e.g. shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and migraines 
2.       Heart-related symptoms – e.g. heart palpitations and chest pain 

Tests can often be booked in either the same or next day as the initial virtual consultation. At the start of the patient journey, the patient will undergo the appropriate diagnostic investigations for their symptoms. From there it can be determined whether additional tests are required. Tests which are often offered to patients as a first port of call are: 

Electrocardiogram (ECG) - this simple test can be used to check a patient’s heart rhythm and electrical activity. Sensors attached to the skin are used to detect the electrical signals produced by the heart each time it beats. These signals are recorded by a machine and are looked at by a doctor to see if they're unusual. 

Lung function test – this test determines the capacity of the patient’s lungs and can then be compared to someone healthy with a similar age and height to determine whether the lung capacity is normal.   

CT scan - a computerised tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body. CT scans can produce detailed images of many structures inside the body, including the internal organs, blood vessels and bones.  
Blood test – this is used to assess a patient’s general state of health, but can also be used to see how certain organs, such as the liver and kidneys, are working. 

All of these tests can be completed in one visit to the hospital and all tests will be conducted within a couple of hours. Once we have the results from these tests, we can either refer the patient for additional tests or provide treatment. 

Helping you recover from COVID-19

No matter what the results of the tests, we can provide the right help and support for each patient. 

In some cases, whilst a patient’s lung capacity might be normal after having COVID-19, the way they are breathing could be a cause for concern and they might be referred to one of our respiratory physiotherapists who can help them work on their breathing pattern. 

long covid
We have also had a lot of people visit us who were previously fitness fanatics or athletes and want to understand why they’re struggling to train in the same way as they did before a COVID-19 diagnosis. We can create training programmes for these athletes to carry out at home to rebuild the lungs.  

Other patients might simply wish to undergo the set of tests to reassure them that their lung capacity is normal after a COVID-19 diagnosis and to put their mind at rest.

Don’t dismiss symptoms if you’re concerned

If you think you had COVID-19 and you’re struggling to deal with the after-effects, it’s important to not dismiss these symptoms and instead acknowledge that something isn’t quite right and see a specialist.  

To book a consultation with a specialist in Post-COVID-19 Recovery, call:  

The Harley Street Clinic - 020 3733 5216 
The Wellington Hospital - 020 8131 0297 

Visit our Post-COVID Recovery Service page for more info.  
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