Most people with COVID-19 recover completely, but some experience long-term problems with their physical and mental health. This is known as ‘long COVID’.
Around 1 in 20 people with COVID-19 will still have symptoms after two months. This could mean they need substantial treatment and support from healthcare services.
We still don’t fully understand long COVID or how best to diagnose it. We don’t understand risk factors or the consequences it may have on people’s health and the economy. This means healthcare services are struggling to help people with the condition.
So far, most other studies into long COVID have focused on people who were in hospital, because they had become very unwell, or on relatively small groups of people who feel they have long COVID. It is possible that these studies missed important information or favoured some explanations for the illness over others. This is because they were only looking at COVID-19 in two groups of people whose experiences might not be typical.
The CONVALESCENCE study – the first of its kind to look at long COVID – will use electronic health records and the results of studies carried out on the UK population to overcome these potential problems. It is the only study using data from longitudinal population-based studies, which track the health of large groups of people over time. This is important because it means researchers will have access to pre-pandemic data on the people involved.
The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) started funding this study in March 2021 and will continue funding it for three years (COV-LT-0009, MC_PC_20051).
As it is a large national study involving multiple partners, the Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) West will lead on issues of patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE). ARC West will also be involved in analysing data from national anonymised electronic health records and longitudinal studies.
We want to find answers to the following questions:
We will do this by:
We hope that the evidence we collect will let us define different types of long COVID. Defining and understanding different types of long COVID will mean that we will be able to provide more appropriate support to the people affected by it. We hope this will improve care and support for people with long COVID.