A CANDIDATE vying to become the next leader of the Scottish LibDems has claimed Scots with long Covid would be better off moving to England to receive support.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the party’s health spokesperson, has called for a coordinated national action plan to be drawn up for long Covid in Scotland.
The Edinburgh Western MSP has previously met with representatives from the Long Covid Scotland group to discuss what measures the organisation would like to be taken forward.
Mr Cole-Hamilton has used a visit to Future Gym in South Queensferry to set out his party’s plans.
The blueprint includes specialist long Covid clinics, the training of long Covid community nurses to offer in-home support, country-wide access to long Covid physiotherapy and multi-disciplinary rehab.
The LibDems also want a policy of no financial detriment for Scottish public sector workers who are absent for long periods of time due to long Covid.
Mr Cole-Hamilton has pointed to patients in England have access to a network of specialist clinics and other support services while those in Scotland are directed to a charity advice phoneline, internet guidance and GP support.
He said: “There needs to a coordinated plan for helping the tens of thousands of Scots suffering with long Covid. As it stands, people with long Covid would be better off moving to England, given how woeful provision for the condition is here in Scotland.
“GPs and charities are doing their best but this debilitating event is on a different scale. The Government’s webpages aren’t much use to someone with air-hunger who feels like they are suffocating and is literally gasping for breath.
“Specialist covid clinics should exist as a one-stop shop. There is a real advantage in being able to see the medical professionals you need in one place. It could be combined with other help to access wider support and financial advice.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton added: “Physio, help to resume activities and strengthening support will also be important because fatigue, limb weakness and muscle atrophy are just a few of the common problems people are facing.
“The SNP Government has overlooked this hidden pandemic for too long and needs to take the best practice of our English neighbours and start delivering for the tens of thousands of Scots who are battling this devastating condition.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to learn from successes elsewhere in the UK. “Over the coming months I intend to champion the case of Scots who have been left behind by the Scottish Government.”
Speaking to MSPs to confirm Scotland’s move ‘beyond level 0’ yesterday, the First Minister warned that “the harm that the virus can do, including through the impact of long Covid, should not be underestimated”.
Labour health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, said: “I know that the Scottish Government has funded research into long Covid, and a recent report from the University of Stirling and the Robert Gordon University recommended specialist and integrated services to deal with long Covid.
“England has spent £34 million on 80 specialist clinics, with another 23 planned; Wales has spent £5 million on specialist clinical pathways. That is not matched in Scotland, and there are as many as 110,000 people suffering from long Covid, including children, who are simply not getting the support and treatment that they desperately need.
“When will the Scottish Government act to provide dedicated support and treatment for people who suffer from long Covid, and will the First Minister or the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care agree to meet representatives of Long Covid Scotland?”
Ms Sturgeon said: “We are committing significant sums of money to understanding long Covid, so that we can ensure, as quickly as possible, that the right resources are in place.
“We should not lose sight of the fact that many people suffering from long Covid will first want to have access to generalist services—general practices and other services. We want people to be treated for any health conditions as accessibly and as close to home as possible.”
She added: “I do not knock any money that is spent on these things, and the Scottish Government will certainly dedicate resource to appropriate specialist clinics in the coming period. I simply ask people to take a step back and analyse that. I point out that £34 million in an English context is about £3 million for Scotland. We will not get many clinics for that amount of money.
“Our understanding will obviously develop as our research develops, but we should build from an evidential base, and we should do it properly, rather than me saying, ‘here’s £3 million,’ knowing that it will not deliver many specialist clinics.
“We need proper investment and proper development of understanding to ensure that specialist provision does what we require it to do.”