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Long Covid sufferer says ‘people feel left behind’ due to lack of dedicated clinics in Scotland

Callum O'Dwyer has suffered from long Covid since contracting the virus in March last year.

An Aberdeen man, who has suffered with long Covid for more than a year, has called on the Scottish Government to give the condition the “same level of investment and prioritisation” as in England.

It comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs the Scottish Government has to “learn more about this condition” before it could consider a move to create specialist clinics.

The SNP leader and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf both faced questions from MSPs on treatment plans for people with long Covid.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie described it as a “scandal” that people suffering from the condition in Scotland were being “denied specialist help”.

The Scottish Government has not established specialist long Covid clinics in Scotland, despite ongoing pressure from those suffering from the condition.

This is in contrast with the situation down south, where NHS England has committed £34 million on opening 83 clinics.

‘Left behind’

Callum O’Dwyer, from Aberdeen, said those suffering from the condition in Scotland access support via primary care – such as their GP.

But he claimed it does not feel that comes with “the same level of investment and prioritisation” as the situation in England where long Covid clinics are set up.

The 29-year-old, who first contracted the virus in March last year, said: “I absolutely see the first minister’s point about the need for more research and more understanding.

“But one of the ways of gaining understanding, especially within the medical establishment, is to see and treat people with long Covid and that’s really critical for specialists to see and understand what this condition is.

“These long Covid clinics in England are being used as the locations for more research because clinicians there have a greater understanding of the condition.

“It’s feeding into our understanding of the disease which I think Scotland is missing out on.

“I think a lot of people feel like they have been left behind.”

‘We have to do the research’

In response to a question by Ms Baillie, the First Minister said she had discussed the issue of specialist clinics “in-depth” with National Clinical Director Jason Leitch and Chief Medical Officer, Dr Gregor Smith.

She told MSPs there is “still a lack of understanding about exactly what specialisms are needed to respond to long Covid.”

Instead, Scotland is funding a “number of research projects to develop that understanding and then from that understanding we will establish the longer-term provision”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon faced questions on long Covid clinics at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday.

She added: “We have to do the research, we have to learn more about this condition before we can go to that next stage.

“But this is important work and it is work we are committed to doing and doing properly.”

However, Ms Baillie claimed the first minister’s “vague and defensive non-answer was simply unacceptable”.

Jackie Baillie said it was a ‘scandal’ that long Covid sufferers were being “denied specialist help”.

She added: “It was the same non-answer she gave me eight months ago – it’s time the First Minister changed the record.

“People in pain are being left behind while their neighbours in England are being treated.

“And many more are being forced into the arms of private medicine, thus exacerbating inequality.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf was also asked about the creation of long Covid clinics during portfolio questions on Thursday.

The cabinet secretary said the issue was “not one which has ever been ruled off the table” but reiterated the need for an “understanding” of the condition.

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