Support after COVID-19 study: a mixed-methods cross-sectional study to develop recommendations for practice
Bulley, Cathy; orcid: 0000-0001-8338-5388
Curnow, Eleanor; orcid: 0000-0001-9332-8248
Dewing, Jan; orcid: 0000-0002-7968-2213
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BMJ Open, volume 12, issue 8, article-number e056568
Objectives of study stage 1 were to: explore people’s experiences of illness due to COVID-19 while feeling socially isolated or socially isolating; identify perceptions of what would support recovery; and synthesise insights into recommendations for supporting people after COVID-19. Study stage 2 objectives were to engage stakeholders in evaluating these recommendations and analyse likely influences on access to the support identified. Design: A two-stage, multimethod cross-sectional study was conducted from a postpositivist perspective. Stage 1 included an international online survey of people’s experiences of illness, particularly COVID-19, in isolation (n=675 full responses). Stage 2 involved a further online survey (n=43), two tweetchats treated as large online focus groups (n=60 and n=27 people tweeting), two smaller focus groups (both n=4) and one interview (both using MS teams). Setting: Stage 1 had an international emphasis, although 87% of respondents were living in the UK. Stage 2 focused on the UK. Participants: Anyone aged 18+ and able to complete a survey in English could participate. Stage 2 included health professionals, advocates and people with lived experience. Main outcome measures: Descriptive data and response categories derived from open responses to the survey and the qualitative data. Results: Of those responding fully to stage 1 (mean age 44 years); 130 (19%) had experienced COVID-19 in isolation; 45 had recovered, taking a mean of 5.3 (range 1–54) weeks. 85 did not feel they had recovered; fatigue and varied ‘other’ symptoms were most prevalent and also had most substantial negative impacts. Our draft recommendations were highly supported by respondents to stage 2 and refined to produce final recommendations. Conclusions: Recommendations support access to progressive intensity and specialism of support, addressing access barriers that might inadvertently increase health inequalities. Multidisciplinary collaboration and learning are crucial, including the person with COVID-19 and/or Long Covid in the planning and decision making throughout.