The first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Wales in February 2020. Three years later and due to a decreasing total of positive tests, we are now considered in a ‘covid stable’ period. However, in December 2022 around 114,000 people in Wales reported Long COVID symptoms, with 20% stating that the symptoms have had a big impact on their daily lives.
Developed alongside NHS medical professionals, Welsh National Opera launched Wellness with WNO in November 2021 to support people living with the long-term effects of the virus, such as breathlessness, stress, and anxiety.
Gabby Curly, Wellness with WNO Participant
All aspects of my life changed after COVID. Day-to-day tasks took longer because I needed to take regular rests. Physically, the Wellness with WNO programme gave me practical breathing exercises to relieve muscle tension around my ribs. Emotionally, the support I received made me realise that I wasn’t alone. During the sessions, all my worries went out of my head, and I found a real joy in taking part in singing. It’s a great mood booster
After a year of extremely positive evaluation findings, we are delighted to announce that, with the support of Arts Council Wales through their Arts, Health and Wellbeing Lottery Fund, this singing and breathing programme will be expanding into more NHS Wales Health Boards in 2023.
Dr Rachel Skippon, Psychology Lead for North Wales Long Covid Service
Wellness with WNO has helped to embed the breathing exercises that can alleviate symptoms of Long COVID, and the peer support contributes to the overall improved emotional well-being. It’s an accessible service, available for people virtually, which helps patients who are unable attend face to face sessions.
To date, over 100 participants have completed the programme with 94% reporting that the breathing techniques were effective or very effective. The breathing exercises and vocal techniques have promoted positive changes in breathing pattern, bypassing feelings of panic around breath control, increased participants’ understanding of their respiratory system and encouraged a reduction in medication use and bed hours within a hospital setting. The programme has also had a significant social, normalisation and psychological impact with the sheer joy and happiness that is created during the sessions.
Wellness with WNO Participant
I’ve participated in various COVID rehab programmes since March 2020. Wellness with WNO was by far the best and most effective. As well as helping me manage my breathing and work towards strengthening my voice and diaphragm, it was uplifting. There’s not much to smile or laugh about with Long Covid but I would look forward to the zoom meeting every week.
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