Long Covid: Scotland is not doing enough for sufferers of this terrible condition (and much less than England) – Susan Dalgety

Was it really only three years ago that we were confined to our homes, locked down for fear of catching the dreaded Covid virus? Days dragged, enlivened only by Netflix – remember Tiger King? – and the occasional cocktail.
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There were moments when we thought life would never get back to normal. Our world had shrunk to four walls and our only social interaction was FaceTime with friends and family. Then came news of a vaccine, followed by its roll-out, and slowly the world started to recover.

It’s a long, drawn out process, however, and for many Scots, hope of a personal recovery is but a distant dream. These are the people suffering from long Covid, a condition that can cause a range of debilitating symptoms including extreme fatigue and heart palpitations.

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A study of electronic health records by Edinburgh University, published last week, shows that more than 90,000 people experienced long Covid between March 1, 2020, and October 20 last year. And the researchers say that their findings most likely underestimate the prevalence of the condition. Some studies suggest up to 187,000 Scots have long Covid.

Tomorrow is the first International Long Covid Awareness Day, and Scottish Labour’s shadow Health Secretary, Jackie Baillie, will lead a members’ debate in the Scottish Parliament about the need for more work to understand and treat the condition. Another Scottish Labour MSP, Mark Griffin, recently introduced a private members’ bill which calls for people suffering long Covid after catching the virus at work to be classed as having an industrial injury.

An investigation by BBC Panorama in January suggests that up to 10,000 healthcare staff across the UK could be off sick with the condition. One nurse, who was working in Edinburgh when the pandemic struck, told a newspaper last week about how long Covid had destroyed her life.

“It’s not being disabled I mind,” she said. “It’s losing everything and not being well enough to pick up the pieces or deal with it properly. The worst of it is that I’m not alone. What we need is proper multi-disciplinary long Covid health services in Scotland, with specialist nurses.”

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The Scottish Government points to its £10 million long Covid support fund as proof of its commitment to tackling the condition. It is better than nothing, but the money is spread over several years, and based on Edinburgh University’s report which identified at least 90,000 sufferers, it works out at about £110 per patient.

A man thought to be at risk of long Covid is given a lung capacity test (Picture: John Nguyen/PA Wire)A man thought to be at risk of long Covid is given a lung capacity test (Picture: John Nguyen/PA Wire)
A man thought to be at risk of long Covid is given a lung capacity test (Picture: John Nguyen/PA Wire)

Contrast that with NHS England’s approach. There are now 90 post-Covid clinics across the country, each of which provides specialist treatment and rehabilitation and, in this financial year alone, NHS England spent £90 million on long Covid services – three times more per head of population than Scotland.

The Heath Secretary’s mind is elsewhere at the moment as he tours the country trying to convince SNP members to support his bid to be First Minister. But perhaps Humza Yousaf could spend some time tomorrow on his day job and work out how he can improve his government’s approach to long Covid.

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