The Medical Research Council has reacted to criticism by long Covid campaigners who put up a large billboard near its Swindon office.

Campaigners from Not Recovered UK say they have been abandoned by health professionals who have failed to find treatments for illnesses such as ME and long Covid.

The group’s nationwide campaign uses huge billboard adverts to highlight what they feel is a lack of effective treatments or help for sufferers of chronic illnesses.

"Aside from raising awareness and calling for appropriate research and treatments, the billboards are a push back on the minimising and harmful narratives these patients will be cured by exercise, diet or mindfulness techniques,” said Aaron Campbell, who founded the campaign.

"It is time that attitudes towards 'invisible illnesses' are changed.”

The Swindon billboard appeared on Rodbourne Road, a mile and a half away from MRC, which is based in the UK Research and Innovation building at Polaris House in Swindon.

Not Recovered UK say they purposefully put the billboard there to get the attention of medical professionals.

Speaking about the criticism, a spokesperson for MRC has said: “UK Research and Innovation’s Medical Research Council funds research to improve human health, including early research through to early phase clinical trials.

“Applications for research funding are judged in open competition and the primary considerations in funding decisions are scientific quality and importance to human health.

“MRC has prioritised research into chronic illnesses such as ME for a number of years, co-funding a Priority Setting Partnership to identify research priorities in this area and maintaining an open highlight notice to encourage ME/CFS research.

“In addition, in 2020, we joined the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) to support research into long-COVID.”

According to the research council, MRC and NIHR have since 2020 collectively awarded more than £50 million for research on ME/CFS and long Covid.

This includes four studies which looked at identifying the causes of long-Covid and therapies to treat people who experience chronic symptoms of the disease, as well as the world’s largest ME/CFS study to better understand the disease and find treatments.

“In addition, MRC has supported a study to investigate the long-term impacts of lung damage after COVID-19 and the role of autoantibodies in ME/CFS.

“We continue to encourage high-quality research proposals across all our funding opportunities for these important areas,” added the spokesperson for MRC.