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Team player Zoe Fox says winning prestigious award from The BMJ was a 'career highlight'


A respiratory physiotherapist who plays a key role in an award-winning long Covid team based in Leeds has described the experience as a ‘career highlight’

Specialist physiotherapist Zoe Fox is a member of a pioneering long Covid rehabilitation service that is run by two NHS trusts: Leeds Community Healthcare and Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

She and her colleagues won the clinical leadership team category at the 2021 The BMJ Awards, details of which were announced at a virtual ceremony last week (29 September).

'Amazing journey' 

Winning The BMJ award has been the highlight of my career! I have been so lucky to be part of setting up this fantastic service from the beginning [Zoe Fox]

Zoe told PhysioUpdate: ‘Winning The BMJ award has been the highlight of my career! I have been so lucky to be part of setting up this fantastic service from the beginning. What a journey we have been on, we have worked so hard and it’s amazing for this work to be recognised.’

In her role, Zoe conducts holistic physiotherapy assessments in order to support the rehab needs of people with a diagnosis of long Covid. Patients’ symptoms include shortness of breath on exertion, reduced lung capacity and exercise tolerance, she explained.

‘A large part of my role is assessing respiratory function and identifying breathing pattern disorders that have resulted from Covid 19 infection. Rehabilitation consists of breath work and breathing retraining to engage respiratory muscles that have become weak and have reduced function.’

Promoting self-management

Zoe also helps to educate patients in managing breathlessness and other post-Covid symptoms, empowering them to self-manage and monitor their symptoms through various strategies, she said.

‘I work closely with the occupational therapists in the team to support patients to manage other symptoms such as fatigue.’ She added: ‘By working together we can safely support patients to return to and increase their activity levels and exercise.’

For more information on The BMJ Awards, visit: https://thebmjawards.bmj.com/winners-2021

More plaudits for the team

Earlier last month (22 September), the Leeds-based long Covid rehabilitation service was named as a joint winner in the 'management of long-term conditions' category of the 2021 NHS innovations awards organised by Medipex, a regional ‘healthcare innovations hub’.

Clinical pathway co-ordinator Rachel Tarrant, who was one of the first members to be appointed to the service, told PhysioUpdate the past year had been a ‘whirlwind 12 months.’

During the first wave of the pandemic, Rachel was a specialist respiratory physiotherapist in the local acute hospital. She then took up the challenge of developing a team of allied health professionals to support the rehab needs of ‘Covid survivors’.

‘I provide clinical leadership, drive and develop the service, ensure efficiency, evidence-based practice, and the best patient care possible.

‘Another part of my role is ensuring we are sharing service data, experience, and skills nationally to support other long Covid services and contribute to the national picture and emerging evidence of long Covid.’

Patient advocacy role

Rachel acts as a 'strong patient advocate'. 'It’s important the service takes every opportunity to raise the awareness of long Covid and how it's impacting on people, conducting media interviews at every opportunity. I also have a very important patient-facing role being one of the first professionals in the team to conduct initial assessments.’

In her practice, Rachel focuses on patients’ rehabilitation needs and decides if any further investigations are needed, referring people on externally when required. Links have been established with colleagues in public health, the local council and various community groups and services that can offer support in the Leeds area (such as singing and peer support groups).

'Incredibly proud'

‘I am so unbelievably proud of our team, how together we have created and developed this new service over the last year and what we have already achieved. Winning this award is testament to everyone’s dedication in rising to the challenges of Covid and supporting the rehabilitation needs of people suffering from longer-term health consequences.’

Rachel and her award-winning colleague physio Jennifer Davison, a Covid 19 rehab coordinator, are co-authors of a paper titled A Multidisciplinary NHS COVID-19 Service to Manage Post-COVID-19 Syndrome in the Community. It was published earlier this year. See: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33880955

The Medipex hub covers the NHS Yorkshire and Humber, and East Midlands regions. For more information, visit: http://www.medipex.co.uk

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