Seeking support from healthcare services to manage Covid at home

This page explores the experiences of people who contacted healthcare services for help managing Covid at home. Many people wanted help from healthcare services at some point during their Covid experience. This was often for advice and reassurance about interpreting symptoms, accessing testing, and looking after themselves and others while they were ill. This page covers the following topics:

  • Strategies for managing covid at home
  • Seeking support from healthcare services
  • Changing guidance and new variants

Strategies for managing covid at home

Most cases of Covid can usually be managed by isolating and resting at home. Abdul rang a doctor when he had Covid symptoms. He was advised to isolate, drink plenty of fluid and keep warm. June joked that the advice from the government for managing Covid was ‘stay home and good luck’.

Other people who had already experienced Covid were also an important source of information for how to recover.

Aytana got advice from her parents and her brother about what helped recovery when they had Covid.

As well as learning from other people’s experiences, some people we spoke to used devices to monitor the levels of oxygen in their blood. Laurie’s friend, who is a GP, explained how she could use her smartwatch to do this, and June and Laszlo were able to borrow a pulse oximeter from health services.

Dr Sharon Dixon explains what a pulse oximeter is and what it was used for during Covid.

June liked being able to monitor her blood oxygen with a pulse oximeter.

Within the Orthodox Jewish community there are charities that lend medical equipment to help with managing illnesses at home. Rabbi Wollenberg was lent a machine that helped with his breathing while he had Covid.

Seeking support from healthcare services

Local and national helplines were an important source of information about Covid. Before it was possible to test at home, Pooja spoke with a helpline about her symptoms and whether she should isolate. At the beginning of the pandemic, when people were very frightened about Covid, contacting 111 or a specialist Covid helpline was a way of getting reassurance about symptoms and how to care for yourself and others.

Gulsoom felt very reassured by the advice she received about her symptoms when she rang a local Covid helpline.

During periods of high demand there were sometimes problems getting through to someone on a helpline. Gulsoom and Susanne both spent hours waiting when they sought advice from 111. Surindar felt she was ‘going round and round in circles’ on the phone between the services provided by 999, 111 and her GP to find the right person to speak to. She wanted ‘dedicated Covid lines’ where she could get a rapid response.

At these times, NHS services were thinly stretched. This meant it wasn’t possible to get help unless you were extremely ill, and even then, it was not guaranteed. Paul joked that he used a ‘stiff upper lip’ as his Covid treatment. Pooja knew there were people who were sicker and needed more help than she did but wished there was more support available. June wished that a healthcare professional had checked on her while she was ill. She wanted reassurance that she was doing the right things to help with her recovery.

Pooja felt really alone when she had Covid, but knew that the health system was under pressure at the time.

Changing guidance and new variants

A challenge in understanding how to effectively manage Covid at home was that NHS and government guidance changed regularly during the pandemic. This left people unsure about how to best care for themselves and protect others. Matt tried to use NHS websites and apps to decide what to do but found the messaging from different sources ‘contradictory’. Everyone wanted consistent guidance about how to best care for themselves and others when they were ill.

Matt preferred to get advice about Covid from a helpline, because the information on NHS websites was too generic.

As well as guidance changing regularly, the emergence of new variants with different symptoms caused confusion about when to get tested.

When she was seeking information about what actions to take based on symptoms, Samena got conflicting advice from Track and Trace and from her GP.