Call for bureaucratic barriers in the NHS to be removed and data sharing to be improved
NHS bureaucracy is preventing patients with long covid accessing vital support services, a charity has warned.
Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS) said its long covid support service was only supporting a fraction of those it should.
About 60,000 had experienced long covid symptoms for more than 12 weeks and 28,000 for a year.
However, CHSS said they are only managing between 55-60 patients per month.
The long Covid support service, funded by CHSS and the Scottish government, was described in February as a first step towards a comprehensive national service.
Its aim was to work with GPs and develop a support plan for people early on in their experience with long Covid as they awaited further NHS treatment.
It came after repeated calls for specialist long covid clinics, which were introduced in England last year. At the time Scotland was devoting resources to research.
However CHSS chief executive, Jane-Claire Judson, said the service has not made the progress she expected, and instead was meeting patients at the "sharp end" of long Covid.
She said: "They come to us as a self-referral, so we're supporting people at the worst points in their long Covid journey - but that's not what the service was for.
"It was to receive referrals from people going to primary care so that we could start working with them early on. That means that thousands of people are not getting the support they need from us or the NHS.
"It means the data sharing is not in place and bureaucracy is preventing us and the NHS from working together and having a massive impact on people with long Covid. That's not acceptable."
CHSS have now published a long Covid action plan which calls on the Scottish government to make a number of changes.
Crucially it wants a fund to be set up for health boards to establish local long Covid services - although a figure has not yet been established.
It also wants bureaucratic barriers in the NHS to be removed and data sharing to be improved so that it can speak to patients more quickly.
Additionally the document calls for patient care plans to be developed and for medical staff to be trained on long Covid - as the charity said some do not recognise it as a real condition.
A Scottish government spokesperson said: "NHS Scotland continues to deliver its full range of services to support the needs of people with long Covid, and we are engaging with NHS boards as they co-ordinate pathways across primary, community and secondary care services to support a coherent patient journey.
"While long Covid clinics are one model that NHS boards may explore, we know no one single approach is likely to fit all areas and circumstances.
"We are keeping all aspects under review, including specialist services and funding to ensure people suffering from long Covid receive the best possible care and support."