Edinburgh health: Only a fraction of NHS Lothian's Long Covid funding spent this year

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Only a fraction of the money allocated to NHS Lothian to provide support for patients with Long Covid over the past year has actually been spent, new figures reveal.

The Scottish Government announced a £10 million Long Covid Support Fund in 2021, which would award funding to NHS boards and a number of other organisations. But NHS Lothian has spent just £63,263 of the £372,215 it was allocated for 2022/23 - or 17 per cent of the funding awarded.

Many patients with Long Covid, which can include fatigue among its symptoms, have now been suffering for nearly four years.Many patients with Long Covid, which can include fatigue among its symptoms, have now been suffering for nearly four years.
Many patients with Long Covid, which can include fatigue among its symptoms, have now been suffering for nearly four years.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

An analysis by the Scottish Lib Dems of how much had been spent across the country - to mark International Long Covid Awareness Day - found other health boards had also underspent on their Long Covid funding and some had not spent any of their allocation at all.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton put the blame on the Scottish Government, saying NHS boards had warned ministers that the non-recurring nature of the funding would result in the creation of temporary posts, which could be difficult to recruit for.

He said: “So much of this staggering underspend comes down the SNP Government’s failure to commit to supporting health boards in the long term. Several health boards warned the Scottish Government that the funding model would result in the creation of unattractive temporary posts, and yet it looks like ministers took no action whatsoever to address that.

“We also know that the government now plans to stretch Long Covid funding over five years rather than three, with the total funding available remaining unchanged. This lacklustre and incoherent approach is an insult to all those ordinary Scots who face breathing difficulties, crushing fatigue and any number of other debilitating symptoms associated with the condition.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Many of those with Long Covid have been suffering for almost four years now. In England new care pathways are already up and running but in Scotland we are far behind. As we mark International Long Covid Awareness Day, I want to see the Scottish Government changing tack and working with health boards to ensure funding can be put to use to help all those in need. That starts by addressing obstacles that would otherwise prevent key funding from being spent.”

NHS Lothian said like all health boards in Scotland it continued to develop plans to provide ongoing Long Covid services. "Scottish Government funding supported the roll out and further development of a digital pathway developed between NHS Lothian, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS), and Pogo Studios (Tailored Talks platform). This provides the tools for patients to self-manage, as well as giving advice and signposting to other useful resources. Patients are also linked to the CHSS Long Covid wellness programme.

"Scottish Government funding has also supported the development of patient pathways for those not suitable for, or not opted in to the CHSS digital pathway, and for those who require further clinical interventions. Over the coming years, we will continue to develop our Long Covid services for patients, utilising Scottish Government funding to enable this."

Public Health Minister Jenni Minto said: “We take Long Covid very seriously and recognise the impact it can have on those most severely affected. Thanks to backing from our £10 million Long Covid Support Fund, 12 out of 14 NHS boards have active Long Covid pathways in operation, and elsewhere well-established referral pathways exist to a range of services which can provide support to people with symptoms resulting from Long Covid.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Boards didn’t need to use all of the money made available to them over the first year of the fund but we remain committed to delivering the fund in full. The vast majority of boards have now accessed the funds available or increased the amount spent. We regularly engage with boards on their capacity needs and to inform the allocation of the fund. We will consider base-lining funding at a level based on progress made over 2023-24.”  

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.