We are actively supporting the Scottish intercollegiate guidelines network, which is working with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Royal College of General Practitioners to develop a rapid clinical guideline on the persistent effects of Covid-19—long Covid. That guideline, which will be critical to the development of services, is expected to be published before the end of the year. It will provide a formal definition of the disease, address how on-going symptoms can be identified and look at a definition of best-practice investigation and treatment options to support the management of the condition.
In addition, we have launched a call for applied research proposals that are designed to improve understanding of the longer-term effects of Covid-19 on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of people in Scotland, and which have the aim of developing effective clinical interventions.
In summary, at the moment our NHS is working to treat individuals with particular symptoms through, for example, the respiratory and heart work that is being undertaken, but the work to establish a clinical definition of long Covid is critical. As a result of that work, we will be able to cohort the right kind of clinical services to address the needs of people who are experiencing long Covid symptoms.
My constituent contracted Covid-19 in March. Since then, she has had to live with debilitating symptoms, including fatigue, breathlessness, headaches, sore eyes, blood pooling in lower extremities, tachycardia and much more besides. She is a nurse; she has tried to go back to work three times.
People need one-stop clinics to deal with long Covid. I understand that such clinics have already been set up in England. When will that happen in Scotland?
I do not disagree at all with Ms Baillie, and I have huge sympathy for her constituent and for the many others who are suffering in that way.
The range of symptoms that Ms Baillie has read out could be added to with the additional symptoms that other people are experiencing. That demonstrates the need for a clinical definition that guides clinicians on the various symptoms that an individual might present with—not so that they can dismiss those as being about something else but so that they can investigate properly whether the condition is long Covid and work out a treatment plan that can best treat the most critical symptoms first and then work through the other ones. It is a long exercise. I appreciate that that is no great comfort to Jackie Baillie’s constituent, but it is the right way to ensure that there is a holistic treatment approach.
As soon as we have the long Covid guideline, we will be ready to cohort the necessary clinical input—it is not dissimilar to the situation with other conditions—so that individuals can get a holistic diagnosis and treatment plan that will start to help them.
I, too, have read that NHS England has set up such clinics, but my understanding is that what we have read is a news release about NHS England being about to set up the clinics. We could have issued a similar news release, but I would rather do that once we have set up clinics than anticipate it in advance.