A retired US Marine now living in Scotland has told how anti-viral treatment helped him deal with his coronavirus infection at home.
Michael Flynn has a compromised immune system and is considered at high-risk from the virus.
When he tested positive for Covid-19 last month, he called a phone number on a letter that he had been sent. Within a matter of hours he had five days worth of medication delivered to his door.
Mr Flynn is one of many patients who have benefited as more anti-viral treatments become available.
As Scotland prepares for a further relaxation to Covid self-isolation rules this weekend, a flow navigation centre operated by NHS Lanarkshire has expanded to help high-risk patients deal with their symptoms at home.
Mr Flynn’s wife works at University Hospital Wishaw and has been on the frontline during the Covid pandemic – working in both hospitals and the community.
The retired US Marine – who is originally from Boston but now lives in Cumbernauld and teaches marital arts – was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia in 2008 and given six months of chemotherapy in 2010.
He continues to monitor his blood count and says he first felt Covid symptoms after his daughter tested positive in March.
Mr Flynn initially thought he had been working too hard in the garden but a positive result was confirmed by a PCR test.
Rather than going to hospital, he took advantage of antiviral treatment now available for home delivery.
He said: “Three hours later (after phoning), this guy chaps the door and he’s got five days of medication. Within the third dose, I was fine, I just felt brand new.
“We still do the occasional lateral flow tests to make sure we haven’t caught it again but just to have this opportunity to call somebody and they can give you this medicine to mitigate your symptoms, it’s a godsend. “
The flow navigation centre operated by NHS Lanarkshire handles around 200 calls a day including from GPs, NHS 24, the Scottish Ambulance Service, and social work and emergency department consultants.
Some 10% of those calls relate to access to antiviral medication for high-risk patients.
This treatment pathway has been in place since December 2021 and in that time they’ve treated 800 patients. Around 80 of those have avoided hospital admission.
Dr Mike Coates, NHS Lanarkshire clinical Lead for the Community Covid Treatment Pathway, said: “It’s been a very difficult and challenging time, but with a huge collaborative effort we are now where we hoped we would be and I see what is happening at the centre as an added safety net to protect the most high-risk patients from serious complications from Covid infection.
“There is a time element. Ideally, I would encourage people at risk if they develop symptoms – test as soon as possible and, if you test positive, call the dedicated number as soon as possible. Ideally, we can treat within five days but it can be up to seven days.
“Since December, 13,000 patients in Lanarkshire have gone through the assessment pathway and we have treated 800 patients and we believe that has prevented serious illness, hospital admission or death in around 80 patients. “
“I can understand there is a lot of anxiety with all the easing of restrictions. The NHS is still fully supporting and (is) there for all patients with Covid. Testing is still available for certain groups at risks and their carers.“
There are three different antiviral treatments available – two are oral medications that can be taken at home and the other is an infusion that needs to be done in a hospital.
Relatives normally pick up the medication but if that is not possible it can be delivered by courier or volunteers with the group, Lifesavers.
Demi-Louise Gallon, NHS Lanarkshire deputy charge nurse at the flow navigation centre, said: “Early treatment is vital. We encourage the patients who are eligible to phone in as soon as they test positive for Covid.
“They can find the number on the NHS Inform website or on the letter they should have received. We can get that medication to them that day and they can start it as soon as possible. It definitely dims symptoms and has helped reduce hospital admissions. “
“Most people do think they have to come into hospital for an infusion. We explain to those who call in that we offer three different types of treatment and select the most suitable for them.”
This weekend marks a new phase in the Covid pandemic in Scotland.
The NHS will be taken off an emergency footing from the end of Saturday. Tests will continue to be available for Scots who work in the health or social care sectors, are visiting hospitals or care homes or are receiving treatment, unpaid carers or people in prison.
But the biggest change, due to come into force on Sunday, will be the end to the requirement to self isolate if coronavirus symptoms are present.
Instead, those who have a fever or who are too unwell to go about their daily business have been asked to remain home until they feel well enough.
But while experts describe this shift as a positive step, they stress the pandemic is not over yet.