Sing a song of long Covid with St Andrews Voices

6th May 2021

An innovative programme that teaches people to sing and breathe to help combat the effects of long Covid is just one of the exceptional projects to receive funding as part of the University of St Andrews Community Fund.

St Andrews Voices, the people behind Scotland's only festival of vocal and choral music, have adapted the British Heart Foundation’s Singing for Lung Health workshops to support those recovering from Covid-19 across Fife, teaching key skills around breathing to help in the fight against long Covid.

According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics, more than 1.1 million people in Britain are currently experiencing so-called long Covid symptoms over a four-week period after contracting Covid-19. The sheer scale of those suffering from the condition and the range of associated symptoms make it difficult to ascertain even the prevalence of long Covid and how to support people recovering from it. Medical professionals have struggled to find a route out of long Covid, but there's now hope in the form of unexpected treatments, such as the St Andrews Voices Singing for Lung Health project.

Singing for Lung Health is a group-based art in health intervention with the goal of improving the quality of life of people with a chronic lung condition. With a proven track-record in supporting people with chronic lung conditions, the St Andrews Voices project will build on the existing breathing and wellbeing programme, adapting this specifically for people recovering from Covid-19 and experiencing long Covid symptoms such as breathlessness and associated anxiety.

Supported by the University’s Community Fund with a donation of £3,000 to the project, workshops will be provided by British Lung Foundation trained practitioners and delivered entirely online, focussing on the retraining of breathing through singing.

By focussing on singing and breathing control rather than their respiratory limitations, Singing for Lung Health will allow participants to not only manage their breathlessness but also help improve quality of life. Research shows that projects such as Singing for Lung Health not only help to improve breathing control but can also provide other health benefits, such as improved posture, as well as overall feelings of increased wellbeing by taking part in a meaningful social and physical group activity.

St Andrews Voices Festival Director and Project Lead, Amanda MacLeod, said: “Our unique workshops will empower and better equip participants to deal with the breathlessness and anxiety associated with long Covid. The evidenced benefits of Singing for Lung Health and wellbeing not only include improved breathing control but also allow those suffering from long Covid a focussed wellbeing intervention that distracts from breathlessness and provides much needed social participation, reducing feelings of isolation that many have suffered during the pandemic.”

Workshops will initially be offered entirely online over a 12-week period. Led by a Singing for Lung Health leader and supported by a respiratory medical officer, sessions will offer breathing exercises and suitable songs to aid the recovery. Following the 12-week programme an extensive evaluation process will take place and a range of resources, including exercise booklets and videos and online activities, will be created for use by the wider public.

Consulting with Senior Lecturers from the University of St Andrews School of Medicine, local respiratory consultants and clinicians within the NHS in Dundee and Fife, the team have taken measures to ensure the project is delivered in a safe environment and in adherence with current Covid guidelines.

University of St Andrews Principal, Professor Sally Mapstone, said: “The University recognises that key to recovery and the very fabric of life in communities affected by the pandemic are the many small voluntary bodies that are responding to the needs of residents, with a will and bravery which must be commended. The University of St Andrews Community Fund was conceived before the Covid-19 crisis but quickly adapted to assist those who support the very fabric of our society at its most vulnerable time.

“While the St Andrews Voices project is small and local, the possibilities to help those suffering with long Covid are widespread and far-reaching beyond St Andrews. So little is known about long Covid that we must explore all avenues as we seek to come out of the pandemic and support those who may struggle in the months and years ahead.”

Download "This is Home" performed by St Andrews Voices Singing for Lung Health Workshop.

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