Special clinics to help patients who were hospitalised with Covid-19 overcome the effects of the virus have been set up at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
Many patients who have recovered from the initial virus are still battling with ongoing health issues. These can range from difficulty swallowing and problems with their speech, to breathlessness and fatigue.
Some patients are also struggling to cope with mental health issues associated with having the virus, including survivor guilt.
Addenbrooke’s has set up a number of clinics to specifically help patients address any ongoing health issues.
These include a joint clinic set up with ear, nose and throat, speech and language and tracheotomy nurse specialists to see patients who have been in Addenbrooke’s with Covid and, following their illness, are having speech, language and breathing difficulties. Many of the patients being seen by this clinic have spent time in intensive care with a tube helping them to breathe or swallow, or have needed a tracheotomy.
Ekpemi Irune, ENT, head and neck consultant surgeon, who runs the clinic, said:
It is such a joy to know we have the time to be able to look after all these patients, and give them the rehabilitation that they need.Ekpemi Irune
“We are also looking at their quality of life, not just treating the physical symptoms but also looking at the impact it has had on their life because there is a huge social and economic aspect to the disease as well. We want patients to get better, to swallow properly and to speak better but we also want them to be able to see their families and get back to work.”
The hospital has also set up a Complex Covid Multi-Disciplinary Team ( MDT) clinic for patients with complex needs who need to be seen by two or more specialities, such as a neurologist or a respiratory consultant. This is being held at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Cambridge Clinical Research Facility on the hospital site.
Dr Rowan Burnstein, the clinical lead for critical care follow up, has helped set up the new “carousel” clinics which see patients spend half a day at the hospital, during which time they receive an x-ray, and are seen by pharmacists, respiratory consultants and/or neurologists, physiotherapists and intensive care consultants to help work through any ongoing issues.
Dr Burnstein added: “Before Covid, the hospital followed up all patients who have been in critical care.
Around a fifth of the Covid patients have been in critical care, and most of these as well as many of the patients who were admitted to the hospital, now have complex needs.Dr Rowan Burnstein
This multidisciplinary clinic has been set up specifically to make sure we are able to address their physical needs, such as breathlessness, nerve damage, fatigue and also any mental health issues they may have in a more holistic manner.”
Karen Thorp is a teacher who was hospitalised with Covid-19. She has struggled with speaking and misses not being able to enjoy her favourite pastime – singing.
But despite the physical challenges, one of the big issues for her has been survival guilt. She said: “Every time I see a news programme and hear about all the people who have died it is very hard for me not to think “Why did I survive?”
The hospital also has an Acute Covid Follow up clinic. This service has been created to provide medical support to patients diagnosed with Covid-19 in the first two weeks after being seen by the hospital.
The infectious diseases team will regularly call patients after discharge, until they are well enough to hand over to primary care, to ensure early pick up of signs of deterioration and the need for readmission with complications of Covid-19. They will also provide medical/psychological support in the recovery process.
ITN spent a day finding out what Addenbrooke’s is doing to help patients who are in the process of recovering from the after effects of Covid-19.