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Health Minister announces ‘long Covid’ app as Plaid Cymru say more must be done to help sufferers

20 Jan 2021 4 minutes Read
The long Covid app. Picture by the Welsh Government

Wales’ Health Minister has announced a new app will help people suffering from ‘long Covid’, as Plaid Cymru have called for more to be done on the matter.

Vaughan Gething said at today’s Welsh Government press conference that “research suggests that as many as one in 10 people who have had Covid-19 could be affected”.

Symptoms ranged from fatigue and breathlessness to not being able to think straight and chest and muscle pains for more than 12 weeks after developing Covid-19 symptoms.

“For some people, it can be a cycle of improving and then getting worse again,” he said.

The bilingual app has been developed by the NHS Wales respiratory health group on behalf of the Welsh Government and has been designed to offer people “a bespoke tool and personal coach to help them on their road to recovery”.

Vaughan Gething said: “We are still learning about the virus but it is estimated that around 1 in 10 people who have had coronavirus suffer some long term symptoms. The launch of this app, which is the first of its kind, is to reassure those people that there is support available to them and that they are not alone.

“This app is part of a wider national approach which has been put into place to recognise those people who months later are still feeling a range of cardiac, neurological and psychological issues.”

‘Expertise’

However, Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth said the Welsh Government needs to move quicker on plans to support people suffering from long Covid.

He called on the Welsh Government to reveal what funding is going into specific research into long Covid, and to detail what support will be available for people with long term symptoms.

There is currently no clear guidance to help them navigate the benefits system, insurance systems, and early retirement options, given that long Covid may not be recognised or diagnosed as a condition, he said.

“When GPs are only seeing one or two cases at most, how are they expected to build up expertise to know how to deal with this?” Rhun ap Iorwerth said.

“We didn’t expect GPs to work in isolation when the pandemic first arrived, so why is this being expected of them now?

“The Welsh Government must move quickly with a national approach. They also need to provide detail on the funding that has gone into specific research on long Covid.

“The sooner this debilitating disorder can be properly defined, the sooner it can be recognised and diagnosed. There are possibly thousands of people in Wales trying to deal with the impact of long term symptoms following coronavirus, and at the same time, navigate their way through a system that isn’t currently tailored for their needs.

“People just want to know how to deal with this syndrome. But without a treatment plan – accessible to everyone in Wales – we could be looking at the next health crisis.”

‘Pivotal’

Dr Fiona Jenkins, executive director of therapies at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said in reaction to the app’s launch: “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to produce this app for the people of Wales which offers a huge range of clinical advice and allows you to support yourself, it lets you set goals, track your progress and monitor your symptoms over time.

“The vast majority of people fully recover quickly. However, we’ve seen that for some people, it can take three months or even longer for symptoms to settle.

“The role of the GP is pivotal in ensuring any medically treatable symptoms are appropriately managed.

“Where necessary, your GP can ensure you are checked and given access to specialist consultants and held guide you through your path to recovery which largely requires a rehabilitation approach for the majority of people, and the Covid recovery app has been developed for this purpose.”

Always call 999 if you experience any life-threatening symptoms or contact the 111 online coronavirus service or your GP if you feel your symptoms aren’t improving or you need further advice.

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