Newcastle doctor appointed first national speciality advisor for Long Covid

A Newcastle doctor has been appointed as one of five new NHS clinical leads to help spearhead action to address some of the key issues facing the health service.

Dr Graham Burns, a consultant physician and lecturer at the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Newcastle University, is the NHS’s first ever National Specialty Adviser for Long Covid – a role created to help the NHS meet the new demand for ongoing care from people suffering long term physical and psychological after-effects from the virus.

He is joined in the role by Dr Melissa Heightman is a respiratory physician and clinical lead for the Post COVID clinic at University College London Hospital, and consultant lead for the Post COVID network in North Central London. She has advised NHS England, NICE and the NIHR-funded STIMULATE-ICP research program on care and treatment for patients experiencing Long COVID.

During the pandemic Dr Burns, who is President of the British Thoracic Society, set up both a respiratory support unit and a post-COVID assessment clinic, both of which became models replicated by other hospitals and in national NHS guidance.

The five new clinical leads – which also cover urgent and emergency care and elective care – will provide expert advice to the NHS Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, and to the programme teams working to support local NHS teams improve services for patients in these areas.

Professor Julian Redhead has been appointed National Clinical Director for Urgent and Emergency Care, and will be responsible for helping the NHS to continue to improve 999, 111, A&E and other urgent care services, at the same time as the service faces record levels of pressure off the back of the pandemic. Professor Redhead is medical director and chief of service for emergency medicine at Imperial Healthcare and medical director for the North West London Integrated Care Partnership.

Joint National Clinical Directors have also been appointed for Elective Care, bringing a combined 60 years of experience to the NHS’s efforts to tackle the COVID backlog for non-urgent treatment.

Ian Eardley is a Consultant Urological Surgeon in Leeds, and has held a range of national roles including Vice Chair of the Royal College of Surgeons (England) and Chair of the Joint Committee for Surgical Training.

He is joined by Stella Vig, consultant in vascular and general surgery and Director of Elective Recovery at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust. Stella has also previously chaired the Joint Committee for Surgical Training, and is a current member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England Council.

NHS Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: “The fact that the NHS was able to respond so well to the greatest public health emergency in its history is in large part because of our ability to draw on an unrivalled wealth of clinical experience, expertise and enterprise – right the way from ward to board levels.

“So as the NHS works hard to tackle the Covid backlog for non-urgent care, safely treat all those needing urgent and emergency care, particularly as we head into a difficult winter, and address the new challenge of Long Covid, I am delighted to welcome five senior clinicians to help lead this vital work.

“All of my new colleagues bring a wealth of experience and a strong track record of leading improvements in care and treatment for patients at a national level, and I know they are all eager to continue this in their new roles.”