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Labour condemns pace of action to help long Covid patients

The Government has been urged to do more to help long Covid patients (PA)
The Government has been urged to do more to help long Covid patients (PA)

The Scottish Government is operating at a “snail’s pace” in addressing long Covid, Jackie Baillie has said.

A total of £10 million has been allocated as part of the Government’s support fund to help those suffering with the long-term effects of coronavirus.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf announced £3 million of that will be given to health boards in order to bolster support for sufferers.

However Ms Baillie said not a single penny of the funding has been spent – despite being announced in September 2021.

The Scottish Labour deputy leader criticised the Government’s response to the “debilitating” condition during a parliamentary debate on Thursday.

Jackie Baillie
Jackie Baillie criticised the pace of action to help people with long Covid (PA)

There are about 150,000 long Covid sufferers in Scotland – 10,000 of whom are children.

Ms Baillie said the funding, which will be spread across three years, is inadequate as it works out at about £33 per person, per year.

She said: “Two years on from when I and others first raised long Covid with the SNP Government, we now have baby steps being taken – snails move at a faster pace.

“Long Covid is debilitating. It impacts daily lives. Many people are unable to work or undertake the most simple of tasks without being exhausted.

“The 10 million announced for long Covid last year has actually still to be spent. Not a single penny has yet to be used to treat and support those with the condition.

“It’s £10 million over three years which works out at a paltry £33 per person, per year.

“No specialist clinics, no specialist dedicated pathways, and little support for people with long Covid.”

During the debate, Mr Yousaf said the Long Covid Strategic Network set up by the Scottish Government will “continue to guide us” in being able to assist people with the condition.

He rejected suggestions that NHS and social care staff are not currently helping those with long Covid, but admitted he has heard from “too many” sufferers who feel they have not received a consistent level of support.

Humza Yousaf visit to Falkirk Community Hospital
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf addressed the issue in a parliamentary debate (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“That concerns me greatly,” he said.

“It presents challenges for those living with these persisting symptoms, who quite understandably are desperate for an answer on how their symptoms can be expected to last and what are the underlying mechanisms that are causing those symptoms.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane – a practicing GP – voiced agreement with Mr Yousaf on the need to address the condition.

But he said people facing the effects of long Covid want “concrete action” rather than hearing politicians “reeling off generalisations” and “platitudes”.

They need it now,” he said. “In fact, they needed it last year.

“The SNP-Green Government’s inaction is having a real impact on those affected by long Covid.”

Dr Gulhane said he had called for long Covid specialist clinics in his maiden speech to the Scottish Parliament in 2021, but to date, a solution is yet to arise.

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