Long Covid Support Fund

– in the Scottish Parliament on 31st March 2022.

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

6. To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Government will provide an update on what the £10 million long Covid support fund has been allocated for and how much has been spent. (S6F-00984)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Services and support are already being provided across Scotland for those with long Covid. We know that more is needed, not just now but for the long term, to support people in the most appropriate way. Our long Covid strategic network brings together clinical experts, national health service boards and those with lived experience, and will determine how we target the support fund at the areas where additional resource is needed and can make the biggest difference in the long term.

The first tranche of funding will be allocated over the next few weeks. The funding will be used by boards to strengthen the co-ordination of services across supported self-management, primary care, rehabilitation support and secondary care investigation and support.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I thank the First Minister for her answer, but long Covid sufferers say that there are very few services in place. That funding was announced in September 2021. No indication was given at that stage that, six months later, not one penny would have been allocated to health boards to develop services. Instead, as we have heard, the money will be spread over the next three years. The number of people suffering from long Covid has been estimated by the Office for National Statistics to be 119,000 and rising. Why has the pace been so slow? When will every health board in Scotland have dedicated long Covid services to help patients and their general practitioners?

The First Minister:

As I indicated in my initial answer, we have set up the long Covid strategic network. We did that deliberately so that the targeting of the funding would be driven and determined by clinical experts on the front line and by people with lived experience of long Covid. In addition, we have launched a long Covid information platform to help people to manage symptoms. We have worked to raise awareness of long Covid and signpost people to appropriate support. NHS Scotland is already delivering care in line with the recommendations of the clinical guidelines developed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. That is underpinned in Scotland by the full range of NHS services, including primary care teams and community-based rehabilitation services with referrals to secondary care where necessary.

Long Covid clinics are one model that NHS boards may be considering. However, no single approach will fit all areas and circumstances. We will continue to support the development of multidisciplinary support services, because that support will be required for the long term.

Photo of Alex Cole-Hamilton Alex Cole-Hamilton Liberal Democrat

Long Covid is becoming the biggest mass disabling event since world war one: there are nearly 120,000 sufferers. Those people need clinics, care pathways and long Covid nurses, yet we are still nowhere. I have asked the First Minister about the issue every month since the funding was announced in September and she said that an action plan was being implemented—six months later, we have just learned that not one penny of that £10 million has left the Scottish Government bank account. Will the First Minister apologise to Scotland’s long Covid sufferers? Will she wake up her ministers on the issue and get help to sufferers fast?

The First Minister:

No, we will continue to support the development of services that are appropriate to those who need that support not just now but in the long term. That is already underpinned by the full range of NHS support services. I have outlined the work that has already been done and I have outlined why we took the decision to allow clinical experts and those living with long Covid to direct the nature of the funding that is being made available.

I have been encouraged by members in the chamber to follow the example of the approach that is, allegedly, being taken south of the border. A report was published just last week by the Westminster all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, which stated that the pathways that have been established by the UK Government

“including Long Covid clinics are inadequate and do not meet current demand”.

It also said that

“some of those clinics may be experiencing temporary or even permanent closures”.

The reason why we are doing this in the way that we are is so that we do not somehow suggest that there is one model of support. The support needs to be delivered across the entirety of the NHS.

Of course, we still need to understand more about the nature of long Covid, which is why, right now, the chief scientist office is funding nine Scottish-led research projects to enable us to continue to develop our understanding of long Covid and ensure that services develop alongside that.