A specially-converted Ford Transit van is to assist NHS efforts to identify and assess the effects of long Covid in Essex.

The van, converted by Venari Group, has been fitted with spirometry testing equipment, designed to test patients for respiratory diseases.

Other features of the van include medical-grade refrigeration with wi-fi monitoring capability, along with vaccine transport coolers, a collapsible chair for vaccine administration, and an integrated tablet for accessing and updating health data.

It is designed to offer a one-stop-shop service for Essex residents who may have mobility issues, language barriers or live in rural areas.

The van’s deployment follows that of a dedicated Transit conversion for vaccine delivery last year.

As with that van, the long Covid van’s deployment is on a pilot basis, with the potential to increase the number of vehicles and look at different conversions in future. 

Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership clinical lead Dr Sharon Hadley said: “Building on the success of the Essex ‘vax van’, we are launching a similar outreach model to help reach under-served groups to make sure they get the right care for breathlessness linked to long Covid.  

Many people are reporting ongoing breathing difficulties. With a decline in spirometry testing during the pandemic, the diagnosis of conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is estimated to have fallen by half in the past year. Tens of thousands of people across the country could be living with the serious condition without knowing.  

“In the same way that Covid-19 posed a greater threat to certain communities, we need to get out and find those most at risk and make sure people have the knowledge, care and treatment they need to avoid serious life-limiting illness.”