Ten of thousands of patients across the UK have continued to display COVID-like symptoms and other health ailments weeks and months after first falling ill regardless of whether they required hospitalisation or were even officially tested for coronavirus. But despite calls for a network of specialist clinics to deal with the growing numbers as the pandemic continues to spread across Scotland, the Holyrood administration has been adamant the existing rehabilitation services and therapies within the NHS were the “best-placed” to deal with the condition known as long-COVID.
The Scottish Sunday Express launched its Light at the End of the Tunnel campaign last week in a bid to pile pressure on the SNP cabinet to follow England’s lead and set-up one-stop clinics for patients displaying a huge variety of health issues affecting their physical and psychological well being.
Now Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, the leading charity dealing with long COVID patients, and the RCGP Scotland have joined our call to act now.
Dr Carely Lunan, the chairwoman of the professional membership body of doctors, said the various aspects of COVID and its long-term effects on people’s lives were becoming more clear as the pandemic went on.
She warned that without action from the Government, GP services across Scotland were going to struggle to deal with the soaring demand for services and added: “To ensure that patients receive the best possible treatment for long COVID in Scotland, we would like to see a structured and consistent approach taken to supporting and rehabilitating patients suffering from the long-term effects of COVID-19, drawing expertise from across a multidisciplinary team.
“This will help to ensure that the physical, mental and social impacts of long COVID on patients can be holistically addressed.
“Such an approach would also help to manage the workload pressure being experienced within general practice.
“Many GPs are experiencing exceptionally high levels of demand on services at the moment as they continue to provide non-COVID care to patients, while also playing a key role in helping to recover services which were paused earlier in the pandemic.
“We are increasingly speaking with patients presenting with long COVID symptoms in our surgeries and access to formalised specialist support appears to be variable across Scotland.”
Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland is the biggest charity north of the Border dealing with survivors of the virus.
The organisation also backed our campaign saying the time to act was now to ensure those worst affected would receive the care they needed.
Chief Executive Jane-Claire Judson said that a National Long COVID Support Service bringing together the NHS and various charities would provide “one clear route for people to get help” was needed now.
She added: “People with long COVID in Scotland should not feel abandoned in this way. They must not be the forgotten victims of this terrible virus – we need to see action now.
“This virus, and long COVID, can happen to anyone of us.
“For thousands of Scots this virus has changed everything. Their lives are a daily battle; they’re struggling to breathe, they’re anxious and have chronic fatigue that makes the smallest of tasks extremely difficult.
“And they are currently missing out on the best chance of getting their lives back.
“We are all still learning about this condition, but there is still hope – there is much that we can do to better coordinate support for people experiencing the symptoms of long COVID and help people live life to the full. Progress has been made in England, but in Scotland we now need to see coordinated action.
“Scotland has a chance to adopt an approach that is led by COVID survivors and lead the UK. We need to bring together health professionals and charities to deliver a National Long COVID Support Service that provides a seamless package of care.
“The Scottish Government needs to act now to make sure that no COVID survivor is left behind without the care they desperately need.”
The comments came just days after a National Institute of Health review of “ongoing COVID-19 symptoms” calling for the “holistic management” of the condition.
The document pointed out the evidence on the long-term health impact was still limited and incomplete but that it was increasingly clear for some people the infection was the start of “ongoing and often debilitating symptoms” regardless of whether they were hospitalised or not.
It also said more support was needed as the “changing and multiple symptoms of ongoing COVID-19 are not well served by the way healthcare is currently organised”.
For more information and help visit longCOVID.org or call Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s Long COVID Advice Line on 0808 801 0899