Figures show there are around two million people suffering a range of ailments from severe fatigue to brain fog, and many have stopped work. The Mirror today gives a shocking insight into how Long Covid is devastating the lives of sufferers. We had access to the UK’s first clinic for the condition hitting two million Brits, with 400,000 in need of specialist care.
The Mirror, Martin Bagot, Health and Science Editor
Figures show there are around two million people suffering a range of ailments from severe fatigue to brain fog. Many have stopped work as even standing up leaves them gasping for breath. The Mirror joined medics on the frontline at the country’s first specialist Long Covid clinic. The average age of those being referred in just 45.
But while the virus is declared no longer a health emergency, these patients are left to suffer in silence as the world moves on from the pandemic. Experts estimate around 400,000 have significant disability and would benefit from this specialist care. But we can reveal so far only 100,000 have been offered treatment.
Long Covid expert Dr Melissa Heightman is head of the pioneering clinic at University College Hospital London in the West End. She said:
“This is a real disease and it’s not some nebulous, imaginary phenomena due to a lack of moral fibre or anxiety. We are working to stop this being a lifelong condition. Covid has not gone away. It will be catastrophic for the UK economy if all these people can’t return to work.”
We saw patients having checks such as the “stand up sit down” test and were shocked to see how a few simple tasks left them breathless. Patients told us how minor physical activities, such as this trip to the doctors, leaves them bedbound for days. Dr Heightman added:
“Fatigue is the most disabling thing. They are also often affected by cognitive effects such as brain fog, memory problems and multitasking. The other common symptoms are muscle and joint aches, headaches and palpitations. This can really affect their ability to be active. The striking thing is patients are quite young.”
One, Michelle King, 46, told how she suffers dementia-style symptoms. She said:
“It’s completely changed my life. I’m fed up because I’m not like this. People just think about the initial virus and say, ‘I just had a cough.’ They don’t realise how it can stop your life.”
Michelle is one of about 3,000 more patients being referred every month by GPs to more than 100 Long Covid clinics in England. Two thirds of patients presenting with the syndrome are women. And most of them were not hospitalised with the initial infection.
Dr Heightman’s clinic is the biggest in the UK and was one of the first in the world to start identifying patients with Long Covid three years ago today at the start of the pandemic. Its long waiting room includes doors leading to physiotherapists, psychologists, respiratory physicians, cardiologists and neurologists who each assess the patient. We visited on the day mask-wearing became no longer mandatory in hospital clinical settings.