Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services
It is almost two-and-a-half years since the World Health Organisation declared a global coronavirus pandemic. While we have moved beyond the emergency response to the pandemic in Wales and are beginning to manage the virus and Covid-19 like other seasonal respiratory illnesses, a large number of people continue to suffer from the long-term impacts of a Covid-19 infection – known more commonly as long-Covid.
We are clear that continuing to support people suffering from and recovering from the long-term effects of Covid-19, will be a high priority for us and for the NHS.
We launched the Adferiad programme in June 2021 and have provided £10m to health boards to develop services for people with long-Covid. In February, I provided an update about the first six-month review of the programme and said I would review it every six months. Today the next evaluation report is being published.
I am very grateful to everyone who took part in the review, especially all those who have used and benefitted from the services.
The review finds that the integrated, multi-professional model of locally delivered rehabilitation services continues to meet the needs of the majority of people with long-Covid who have accessed these services.
The professional and emotional support provided by staff is highly appreciated, as are the opportunities provided for peer support from other people with long-Covid.
But the review has highlighted that these services are not working as well as we would like for everybody. A small number of people felt they could be more tailored to meet their individual needs.
This valuable feedback will help health boards to continue to shape services to ensure people receive the best possible care, treatment and support.
We now know more about long-Covid than we did six months ago but there are many unanswered questions and things we do not fully understand, including why people improve at different rates; why people experience long-Covid differently and why people respond to treatments differently.
As a new condition with many unanswered questions, long-Covid is also a priority for research. We are working with our UK counterparts to ensure emerging evidence makes a difference to treatment and service provision. We have invested £3m in a new Covid-19 Evidence Centre to ensure the best available, up-to-date and relevant evidence is readily available to health and social care to inform their decision making.
The emerging evidence does suggest that vaccines may provide some protection against and reduce the number of new cases of long-Covid. As we roll-out the autumn Covid-19 booster vaccine, this is one more reason to take-up the offer of vaccination – for both Covid-19 and seasonal flu – this winter.