A support service helping people in Wales living with the long-term effects of COVID-19 will benefit from a further £5m of Welsh Government funding.

The extra funding follows the first six-month review of the Adferiad (Recovery) programme, which found it was treating and managing the needs of people who had sought help for their debilitating symptoms.

The model of community-led rehabilitation services has been welcomed by people who have used the services and by clinicians as an effective way to support people.

Rehabilitation services, which have developed using this model, include the Wellness with Welsh National Opera long-COVID programme, which accepts referrals from health boards. It is an online breathing and singing programme for people experiencing long-COVID in Wales.  

The pilot programme is being delivered in partnership between WNO and Betsi Cadwaladr, Cardiff and Vale, and Cwm Taf Morgannwg university health boards. It is funded by the Arts Council of Wales’ Arts, Health and Wellbeing Lottery Fund.

Welsh National Opera’s director of programmes and engagement Emma Flatley said: “The response to the programme has been amazing and we expect the formal evaluation results, which are due shortly, to support this.

“The two pilot programmes have shown overwhelmingly positive results in terms of people’s health and breathing and also improvements for the participants psychologically.

“There are many life-affirming stories and testimonials from the people who’ve taken part. People have also avoided urgent trips to hospital by using the techniques and advice given.

“The further funding available to health boards for rehabilitation services will enable programmes such as ours to continue and potentially expand to reach more people across Wales.”

Health boards will benefit from this further £5m, which will be used to continue delivering newly-developed rehabilitation services, enabling people to access programmes, such as the one provided by WNO. 

It is hoped by the end of the next six-month period in July, health boards will have expanded the community model to treat and support people with other long-term conditions, which have a similar impact to Long-COVID, including MS, ME and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

This would help create effective long-term intervention services and reduce variation in treating people with different conditions and diagnoses.

The funding will also support the continuation of the self-management COVID recovery app and the All Wales guideline for the management of Long-COVID, which have helped to support people to self-manage their symptoms and provided healthcare professionals with up to date advice and learning to support the diagnosis and treatment of long COVID.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “We are continuing to learn more about the long-term effects of COVID and how it can affect people in different ways.

“We believe our approach of treating, supporting and managing people through our unique service model is the most efficient and effective way of achieving the best outcomes for people experiencing Long-COVID.

“Innovative programmes like the one being run by WNO show significant benefits to health and wellbeing and I hope this funding will create many more opportunities for people to take up other programmes like this to support their recovery and rehabilitation.

“We have been heartened to see the success of the first six months of Adferiad and look forward to not only seeing this programme continue, but learning from it so we can apply this knowledge to how we treat other long term conditions like MS, ME and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”