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What is current care for people with Long COVID in England? A qualitative interview study.

BMJ Open 2024 May 17
OBJECTIVE: To investigate current care for people with Long COVID in England.

DESIGN: In-depth, semistructured interviews with people living with Long COVID and Long COVID healthcare professionals; data analysed using thematic analysis.

SETTING: National Health Service England post-COVID-19 services in six clinics from November 2022 to July 2023.

PARTICIPANTS: 15 healthcare professionals and 21 people living with Long COVID currently attending or discharged (18 female; 3 male).

RESULTS: Health professionals and people with lived experience highlighted the multifaceted nature of Long COVID, including its varied symptoms, its impact on people's lives and the complexity involved in managing this condition. These impacts encompass physical, social, mental and environmental dimensions. People with Long COVID reported barriers in accessing primary care, as well as negative general practitioner consultations where they felt unheard or invalidated, though some positive interactions were also noted. Peer support or support systems proved highly valuable and beneficial for individuals, aiding their recovery and well-being. Post-COVID-19 services were viewed as spaces where overlooked voices found validation, offering more than medical expertise. Despite initial challenges, healthcare providers' increasing expertise in diagnosing and treating Long COVID has helped refine care approaches for this condition.

CONCLUSION: Long COVID care in England is not uniform across all locations. Effective communication, specialised expertise and comprehensive support systems are crucial. A patient-centred approach considering the unique complexities of Long COVID, including physical, mental health, social and environmental aspects is needed. Sustained access to post-COVID-19 services is imperative, with success dependent on offering continuous rehabilitation beyond rapid recovery, acknowledging the condition's enduring impacts and complexities.

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