A WOMAN living with multiple sclerosis sent a flurry of emails and endured days of “telephone ping-pong” in a desperate attempt to get anti-viral treatment when she contracted Covid-19.

Portskewett councillor Lisa Dymock tested positive for Covid around midday, Sunday, February 4, and alerted her specialist neurologists shortly after.

The following morning, February 5, Ms Dymock’s neurology team directed her to a Covid self-referral form online as she met the criteria for antiviral treatment.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a lifelong condition affecting the brain and spinal cord, with a wide range of potential symptoms including vision, movement and fatigue.

South Wales Argus: Cllr Dymock suffers from multiple sclerosis which made her eligible for antiviral treatmentCllr Dymock suffers from multiple sclerosis which made her eligible for antiviral treatment (Image: Lisa Dymock)

Two days later the councillor, still experiencing symptoms of the infection and having received no response, completed another self-referral.

Because she had already been ill for a number of days, a helpline call handler told her she would cease to be eligible for the treatment if she had to wait one more day and suggested she may be selecting the wrong health board online.

That afternoon, Wednesday 7, the antivirals team confirmed they were yet to receive any of Ms Dymock’s online forms and said without one they would be unable to process the treatment request.

The call handler told Ms Dymock she had been the only person to experience the issue. She called 111 on the advice of the antivirals team – who were finally able to register her request.

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) has apologised for Ms Dymock’s experience in accessing the treatment, attributing the problem to a “recent national change”.

“I know how to use a computer – I use a computer every day,” said Ms Dymock. “My concern is where are the self-referral forms going?

“I’ve got a neighbour who’s got progressive MS. She wouldn’t have the energy or capacity to do this. It’s really concerning this could happen to some of the most vulnerable people – not getting treatment to help their recovery from Covid symptoms.

“The health board know there’s a problem and that’s the main thing. I don’t want people who are feeling unwell to go without those antivirals.

“I’m very lucky I don’t let my symptoms get in the way of my personal life. I know people who have more debilitating symptoms and having Covid on top of that would be horrendous.”

Monmouth MP David TC Davies has described the councillor and fellow former boxer as a “force of nature” and turned his concern to other vulnerable residents who are “not in a position to fight for themselves”.

South Wales Argus: Monmouth MP David TC Davies said it was 'appalling' that vulnerable people may have to wait for antiviral treatmentMonmouth MP David TC Davies said it was 'appalling' that vulnerable people may have to wait for antiviral treatment (Image: David TC Davies)

"I was shocked to hear of the ordeal Lisa has endured," he said. "I have written to the health board saying how appalling it is that vulnerable people can't easily acquire antiviral treatment they are entitled to in order to treat Covid.

"This unacceptable situation needs to be solved quickly."

A spokesperson for ABUHB said: “We are very sorry for Ms Dymock’s experience in accessing antiviral treatment following a recent national change.

“From February 1, 2024, changes were made to how LFD (Lateral Flow Device) tests and antiviral treatments were accessed. Those eligible now access both via a new Wales national self-referral form.

“When an individual completes the form for antiviral treatment, this is then sent to the individual’s health board who will contact them to arrange antiviral treatment.

“It is recommended that this should start within five days of symptoms to be of maximum benefit, however in some cases treatment can be extended to seven days based on a clinical assessment.

“There did appear to be some teething problems and we are working with the national team to ensure this process is as efficient as possible so that our vulnerable residents across Gwent can continue to access antiviral treatments swiftly when needed.

“We would urge Ms Dymock to get in touch with us directly if she wishes to provide us with further feedback.”

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said the NHS 111 Wales Covid-19 treatment self-referral form was implemented last year after the UK Health Security Agency's online test reporting system closed.

They said the system had "enabled many thousands of clinically vulnerable people to access Covid treatments" - most of them contacted by their health board within 48 hours.

Anyone not contacted within that time or cannot access the online form can call NHS 111 or contact their GP or hospital specialist.