Caring for long COVID patients; principles of pharmaceutical care
The term ‘long COVID’ includes both ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 (5-12 weeks after onset) and post-COVID-19 Syndrome (12 weeks or more).
Long COVID can be highly debilitating for many people and is associated with a wide range of different symptoms impacting physical, psychological and cognitive health. It can impact on quality of life and have significant socio-economic implications including inability to work or to attend education 1.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that over a million people in the UK were reporting symptoms associated with long COVID at the beginning of March 2021. 2
While there’s still so much we don’t know about the long-term effects of COVID-19, we are increasingly concerned about the impact of long COVID on people's lives. We are therefore setting out some key principles and recommendations for pharmaceutical care in the management of long COVID.
The principles and recommendations below apply equally in each nation.
Principles of pharmaceutical care
Pharmacy teams in all settings can play an important role in the support of long COVID patients:
- Provision of pharmaceutical care should be embedded across the care pathway for patients with long COVID taking account of the RPS access to medicines principles
- Regardless of where they live, people with long COVID should have access to the pharmaceutical healthcare that they need, when they need it
- Pharmacist knowledge, data and research capability must be utilised when researching pathophysiology and pharmacological treatments for long COVID
- Patients with long COVID must benefit from a highly trained pharmacy workforce with up-to-date knowledge on recognising early signs and symptoms of long COVID and the latest evidence-based treatment options.
- In order to support seamless care, pharmacists in all sectors must work within multi-professional teams supported by an infrastructure that enables recognised referral pathways, access to records and shared decision-making.
Recommendations to enable effective pharmaceutical care in long COVID
- Access to a pharmacist must always be considered when new services are planned and delivered to support people with long COVID
- Pharmacy teams must be supported and resourced to engage in trials to determine evidence-based medicine for people with long COVID
- Pharmacists must have protected time to keep up to date with long COVID national resources 3, including the latest evidence base and patient aids 4, take part in and multi-professional team learning
- Pharmacists directly involved in care for people with long COVID in all settings should have full read and write access to the patient health record in the interest of high quality, safe and effective patient care
- Recognised referral pathways ranging from self-care to specialist interventions must be developed for people with long COVID. This will ensure that pharmacists, and other health professionals, can support people with long COVID to see the right professional at the right time throughout the patient journey.
Impact on the pharmacy workforce
The commitment of the pharmacy profession to patient care, and the hard work and determination to sustain medicines supply and key pharmaceutical services throughout the pandemic, has been immense. In order to support the public, it is essential that pharmacy teams themselves are supported. We continue to work at all levels to support and represent pharmacists who have experienced the impact of long COVID.