Covid-19 (Long Covid)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 27 April 2022.

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Photo of Carol Mochan Carol Mochan Labour

3. To ask the Scottish Government how long Covid has been factored into its Covid-19 strategic review. (S6O-00992)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Our strategic framework update in February 2022 confirmed that on-going assessments of the Covid-19 threat will combine assessments of potential disease impact and the risk of infection. As well as covering current and expected infection fatality rates, the assessment of disease impact will consider factors such as long Covid.

Accurate data is vitally important in understanding the prevalence of long Covid. Data from the Office for National Statistics Covid-19 infection survey is currently the best source of evidence on the estimated prevalence of long Covid in Scotland. Our chief scientist office is funding nine Scotland-led research projects, with a total funding commitment of £2.5 million, to improve understanding of the long-term effects of Covid-19 on physical and mental health, and to help with developing effective clinical interventions to support recovery and rehabilitation.

Photo of Carol Mochan Carol Mochan Labour

Given that answer, can the cabinet secretary explain why the Scottish Government is yet to host a debate on the important issue of the long-term effects of long Covid, and why the scheduled debate on that issue last week was changed to a different topic?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Government is committed to having a debate on long Covid and that will happen very shortly. With regard to the Government’s ability to set out a complete picture of the response, that would involve funding announcements—which members might object to hearing during a local authority election campaign.

Photo of Sandesh Gulhane Sandesh Gulhane Conservative

General practitioner colleagues of mine up and down Scotland despair at the absence of a pathway for long Covid patients, and no one sitting in the comfort of the chamber should pretend that there is one. I and my colleagues face patients who are crying in despair over their long Covid symptoms, but the Scottish Government still does not know how to deal with that, despite the tried and tested models that are running in Hertfordshire.

Given that more than 100,000 Scots now suffer with long Covid and cannot wait for the research that the cabinet secretary tells them is being performed, when will the Scottish Government realise the devastation that is being wreaked across Scotland and finally start caring for people with long Covid by getting long Covid clinics up and running? What is happening now does not work.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I do not agree with the picture that Dr Gulhane has set out, and I do not think that it reflects the position or intended approach of the national health service in Scotland. It is very clear—the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care has set this out to Parliament on countless occasions—that the pathway for patients who have long Covid must be assessed by individual clinicians. There is no way that Dr Gulhane can say to me that every long Covid case presents in exactly the same fashion; that would be an absurd clinical proposition to put forward. Individual clinicians must therefore make an assessment of individual patients, and the national health service must meet those needs.

Research projects are under way. I would have thought that, rather than rubbish those research projects, Dr Gulhane, as a clinician, would be interested in hearing what they might produce. It is really odd for a clinician to rubbish evidence gathering that is part of the process of gathering intelligence and information to enable us to take the right decisions. That approach strikes me being as evidence-led policy making, and if Dr Gulhane, as a member of the Scottish Parliament and as a clinician, cannot see the benefits of evidence-led policy making, I think that he has some serious questions to answer.