A north-east MSP claims the Scottish Government has “abandoned” long Covid sufferers by failing to set up specialist clinics to treat the condition.
Alexander Burnett, Scottish Conservative MSP for Aberdeenshire West, wrote to the Scottish Government to ask when patients will be able to access treatment for the condition, in a similar way to the services offered down south.
NHS England has provided £10 million to fund a network of clinics for those suffering from the long-term symptoms of coronavirus, with 69 operating across the country.
In her reply, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said there is already a “range of services” in place to support people experiencing symptoms of long Covid, which at present is using the “the knowledge and expertise already within our NHS”.
‘Abandoned by Scottish Government’
Mr Burnett said: “I’m angered by the reply from the SNP government, who have shown complete negligence towards the issue of long Covid and the people who are suffering from it.
“Thousands are battling the condition each day yet their health and wellbeing is being abandoned by the Scottish Government.
“In England long Covid sufferers have access to professional help and diagnostic tools through a range of clinics across the country so there is absolutely no reason why Scotland and the north-east can’t have the same.
“Many long Covid sufferers may not even know they have it or, if they do, don’t actually fully know what is wrong with them.
“By not having clinics, the SNP government are putting lives in danger, which is an absolute disgrace.
“I will continue to raise the issue because it’s something that cannot be brushed under the carpet.”
The first minister previously said that while she has not ruled out creating specialist long Covid clinics in Scotland, there is “not sufficient understanding” of the condition to know what specialisms are needed to properly treat sufferers.
The Scottish Government has funded a number of research projects into the characteristics of long Covid and some of the conditions that sufferers go on to experience.
Earlier this month an Aberdeen man, who is still suffering the effects of coronavirus almost a year since contracting the virus, said people with long Covid in Scotland are being “robbed” of the opportunity to better understand their condition.
Callum O’Dwyer, 29, said the Scottish Government’s response “falls well short of what long Covid patients in Scotland would deserve”.
‘Decisions based on latest available evidence’
In response to Mr Burnett, the health secretary said there is already a “range of services in place to support people experiencing symptoms of long Covid, including local primary care teams, community-based rehabilitation services and specialised secondary care where needed”.
She added: “As we continue to learn and respond to the pandemic, it is crucial that the decisions we take are based on the latest available evidence and are aligned to clinical guidance.
“This includes decisions on whether to commission services dedicated to long Covid.
“At present this is using the knowledge and expertise already within our NHS to deliver care tailored to individual need across a wide range of specialisms.”
‘Much to learn’
A Scottish Government spokesman added: “Our approach is for people to have access to the support they need for assessment, diagnosis, care and rehabilitation in a setting that is as close to their home as possible.
“This is being supported by a range of NHS services including GPs, wider Primary Care teams and community based rehabilitation services to support people’s recovery through services such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy.
“Specialist investigation and advice is being provided in acute hospital settings for those experiencing more severe effects.
“There is still much to learn and a great deal to be done, but this government, clinicians, specialist healthcare professionals and third sector organisations are working hard to make sure people can access the services currently available and that we make the improvements needed.”