Researchers from Aberdeen are to play a key role in a £375,000 project examining how people with “long Covid” can receive better treatment.
A two-year study has been launched to improve the care offered to those suffering long-term coronavirus symptoms.
With scientists’ understanding of the relatively new disease still “evolving” it means some patients may not be receiving the most appropriate care.
In order to find out more, the research project has been launched by Stirling University in collaboration with Aberdeen University and Oxford.
Over the next two years, teams will conduct in-depth interviews with Covid and long Covid patients, learning how their lives have been affected and what services they have required.
By showing the “real life impact” of the condition, it is hoped the research can be used to shape training for healthcare workers going forward.
Long Covid patient to assist research
North-east engineer Callum O’Dwyer, who has been suffering the effects of coronavirus and long Covid since March 2020, has been brought onto the project as a patient research partner.
After first contracting the disease, he found himself “gasping for air” while doing litle more strenuous than lying on his bed and, 10 months on, he is still experiencing difficulties.
“I felt really unwell and tired all the time,” he said.
“By around day 12 I started to feel a bit better and was able to do the dishes and take the bins out.
“I was ready to get back to work but my breathing issues came back and I was hit with this horrible fatigue.
“Then I was even more sick than before – just super tired and physically weak.”
Even in recent weeks, Mr O’Dwyer has found his heart rate soaring when on a short, leisurely walk.
He has also been left in “excruciating” pain with stomach issues and brain fog, which has left him confused and slurring his words.
In his role as a patient research partner, the 28-year-old will help tell the stories of others who have experienced long Covid.
Mr O’Dwyer added: “I really want experiences like mine to count for something and help other people.”
Work will improve patient care
The study is being led by Kate Hunt from the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at Stirling University, who says people tend to focus on death numbers and those who are “hardly affected” by the disease.
As a result, patients with long Covid often feel “disbelieved about the debilitating nature of their illness”.
Professor Hunt said: “Our study will look at those suffering from prolonged symptoms to produce a reliable, evidenced online resource with practical information and support for those affected and their families and carers.
“We will also present information that can be used to train doctors, nurses, social care and other healthcare workers – and ultimately improve care to patients.”
Professor Louise Locock from Aberdeen University is also part of the project.
She said: “Many people are living with a range of long term symptoms which can have a hugely detrimental effect on their lives.
“It is important we gather as much information as we can from the people who know best – the people who are living with it right now.
“We are confident this project will give us information on the real-life impact of long Covid that can then be used both to support others going through the same thing and to help inform the care they should receive.”