Children suffering from long Covid have met with a cross-party group of MSPs to call for more action in helping to navigate the illness.
Long Covid Kids Scotland, which represents and supports children and young people living with the long-term effects of coronavirus, met with Humza Yousaf, Jackie Baillie and Alex Cole-Hamilton on Tuesday.
Families gathered outside the Scottish Parliament to show the MSPs first-hand how long Covid has affected the health and wellbeing of the youngsters, who delivered letters to the First Minister and the Health Secretary outlining their experiences.
Helen Goss, whose daughter has been suffering from long Covid since the first wave two years ago, said the group made the journey to Edinburgh to call for improved access to health, social care and education as children and young people are being left at a “massive disadvantage”.
She told the PA news agency: “Some of these children are in wheelchairs, and these are previously healthy, academic kids who are now unable to go to school, unable to do their hobbies, go outside and play with their friends. All the normal things that kids can do.
“A lot of them feel as though that’s been taken away, and what’s their hope for the future? It’s very hard to see.”
Ms Goss added: “They’re not being provided with the health support that they need. Their referrals are getting denied all the time.
“They need physiotherapy, they need occupational therapy and they’re just being told that the services are not available and that nobody can help them.
“They’re being pushed around from service to service and nobody is taking them on.”
Mr Yousaf thanked the families for travelling across the country to meet with the cross-party group and said he was “committed to keeping the dialogue ongoing”.
However, he said his view on introducing specialist long Covid clinics in Scotland had not changed.
In May, the Scottish Government announced a support fund of £3 million, which is being allocated to individual health boards to be spent on bolstering support.
But other Holyrood parties have criticised the lack of commitment to creating a network of clinics.
The Health Secretary said: “If a local health board wants to introduce a long Covid clinic, then they should be able to do that.
“There’s no – in principle – objection from me, and there’s funding of course that we’ve put into the system recently on long Covid.
“But, also, if you look at some of the mounting evidence on long Covid clinics in England, there’s people waiting months and months to get referred to them, and then months and months for another referral to respiratory or physio, or neurology.
“I think the jury’s out on long Covid clinics.”
Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said the children and young people affected by long Covid “cannot be abandoned” as their requests “are not rocket science”.
“The parents are describing how they can’t get access to specialist health services,” Ms Baillie said.
“There are no long Covid clinics, there are no pathways to services, and GPs are just operating a revolving door where they try and refer people on, but it ends up that they’re back at square one.
“These kids are suffering physically from long Covid. The Scottish Government is simply not doing enough to address these problems.”