Parliamentary debate on Long-Covid: What should be learned from ME/CFS?

Russell Fleming, Content Manager, ME Association

The following details the contribution from Carol Monaghan, MP – who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on M.E. – to the debate on Long Covid that was made in the House of Commons last week.

Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North-West, SNP)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) on securing this afternoon’s debate.

Carol Monaghan, MP

For the past three years, I have been involved with individuals living with myalgic encephalomyelitis, a post-viral condition triggered by a virus such as flu or, in some cases, severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Knowledge of post-viral conditions, particularly with regards to activity management, is essential for the many people now living with Long Covid.

As early as January last year, some people expressed concerns that this mysterious new coronavirus could produce similar post-viral effects. However, the sheer numbers affected by Long Covid is a serious health challenge.

In addition to listening to and—crucially—believing and supporting people with Long Covid, health professionals should be providing guidance on symptom management.

  • The ME Association has a full range of free leaflets relating to Covid-19, Long-Covid and ME/CFS. We have recently included a new leaflet about the Covid vaccine and ME/CFS. Leaflets can be downloaded from the website shop.

I am pleased to see that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence moved quickly to provide guidelines for Long Covid, and thankfully it has cautioned against the use of graded exercise therapy.

It is surprising to find a guideline recommending exercise testing. Exercise testing in people who may have an undetected cardiac pathology clearly carries a risk.

In addition, the NICE guideline contains no specific guidance on the management of any of the common symptoms of Long Covid. That is a serious omission that requires urgent attention.

Advice on symptom management cannot be left to charities and support groups. Instead, we should be looking at how that can be delivered in primary care, with the help of, for example, properly trained community physiotherapists.

Long Covid, ME/CFS & Management

There is a need for health professionals, employers, and wider society to recognise that recovery from a virus takes time.

Employers must identify tasks that individuals can continue to carry out, and that might be in a different setting from what they are used to doing.

The Government must ensure that there is proper financial support for those affected.

It may be that these people take months or even years until they start seeing improvements in their health, and we must make sure that the support system can be just that during these times.

Today, we had a study by Public Health England that shows that those who have had Covid will have immunity for about five months post-infection.

Those who are living with post-viral conditions such as Long Covid or, indeed, ME, should therefore be considered vulnerable beyond the five months and prioritised for vaccine.

Finally, it has taken decades of campaigning, largely due to the lack of belief—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)

Order. I am afraid I have to thank the hon. Lady for her speech. We need to move on, because not everybody will be able to get into this debate.

Layla Moran Closing Remarks (Extract)

Several Members mentioned that there are learnings that we must take from other conditions. In particular, ME was mentioned by the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan), among others. I thank her for her work and leadership on the all-party parliamentary group on ME. There is a lot that we can learn from that…

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