A major £3.4 million research project funded by the NIHR has been launched to identify the best way to treat and support the one million people in the UK now living with long COVID.
The research, entitled LOCOMOTION, aims to create a ‘gold standard’ approach for the treatment of long-COVID. It will identify best practice in providing services, ensuring people are supported quickly and receive the right treatments from the right healthcare professionals, either in their own home, through their GP or at specialist long COVID clinics. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has provided £3.4 million to fund this vital research, which is sponsored by the University of Leeds.
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that as of 6 June 2021, an estimated 962,000 people in the UK reported symptoms that had existed for more than four weeks – 1.5% of the population. Nine out of 10 of those individuals had symptoms for more than 12 weeks – and four out of 10 had experienced symptoms for at least one year.
The new project is jointly led by Dr Manoj Sivan, Associate Professor in the School of Medicine at Leeds University and a Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Professor Brendan Delaney, a General Practitioner and Chair in Medical Informatics and Decision-Making at Imperial College London.
Dr Sivan said: “Long COVID is a significant challenge facing the NHS. It is a debilitating condition that has turned the lives of a large group of people upside down, with many unable to work or carry out activities that were possible before they became ill. The purpose of this project is to optimise the way we organise services and enable evidence based and cost-effective treatments to be made available to everyone in a timely manner.”
Co-lead, Professor Delaney, said: “The diagnosis and management of long COVID is a huge challenge for doctors as it presents with a large array of symptoms which evolve over time and there is potential for missing serious conditions, whether directly related to COVID-19 or not. We need to learn rapidly what works best from the existing services.”
To identify the best ways to support and treat patients, researchers will investigate experiences of staff and patients at 10 NHS sites, which collectively treat more than 5,000 patients from a range of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.
Professor Nick Lemoine, Chair of NIHR’s long COVID funding committee and Medical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network, said: “This package of research will provide much-needed hope to people with long-term health problems after COVID-19, accelerating development of new ways to diagnose and treat long COVID, as well as how to configure healthcare services to provide the absolute best care.
“Together with our earlier round of funding, NIHR has invested millions into research covering the full gamut of causes, mechanisms, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of long COVID.”