The Scottish Government will invest £10m to support those facing a long fight against the virus
A new fund will help those with Long Covid to get the support they need, a charity has said.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has announced a new £10 million Long Covid Support Fund to help health boards respond to the condition.
The fund is designed to maximise and improve the co-ordination of a broad range of existing services across the health and social care system and third sector in response to the condition. It will be a flexible fund that will be tailored to local needs. It will strengthen the range of information and advice available, and ensure the right support is available within primary care, providing a response focused on each patient’s needs, with referrals to secondary care where necessary.
The cabinet secretary said: “We know that Long Covid can’t be handled with a one-size-fits-all approach. It can be complex and involve an array of diverse symptoms and combinations of those symptoms.
“The new Long Covid Support Fund will give our NHS Boards the flexibility to design and deliver the best care for those with Long Covid, tailored to the specific needs of their populations.”
The announcement comes just one week after Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS), supported by people living with Long Covid and leading health professional bodies, published a Long Covid Action Plan which outlined next steps that need to be taken to make sure the 74,000 people living with Long Covid in Scotland get the vital support they need.
The plan called for the Scottish Government to address four critical challenges, including the need for more resources, with the creation of a Long Covid Fund for health boards to access.
The charity is concerned that bureaucracy is proving to be an obstacle which is preventing full integration with NHS systems that enable people to be referred into the service. They hope that the fund will help address these issues and will be working closely with health boards and the Scottish Government to ensure joint working with the NHS and third sector.
Chief executive Jane-Claire Judson said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement of a £10 million Long Covid Support Fund. This is a really positive step towards making sure people living with Long Covid in Scotland are getting the vital support they need.
“In our Long Covid Action plan, which we developed with people living with Long Covid and health professionals, we recommended a fund to support health boards. It is fantastic to see the Scottish Government responding directly to what patients and clinicians have asked for.
“There is still a lot of work to be done and we will be working closely with health boards and the Scottish Government in the coming months to ensure that the fund is being used to meet the needs of people living with Long Covid in Scotland.”
GP Amy Small is living with Long Covid and was forced to give up her partnership due to her illness. Dr Small is working with CHSS to promote and support the work of the Long Covid Support Service to ensure patients are receiving the right support.
She said: “As someone who is living with Long Covid and supporting patients who are struggling with the condition, this is a welcome step towards providing the coordinated care and support that we desperately need in Scotland. It needs to be used wisely to make sure health services have better capacity to care for people with Long Covid.
“After months of campaigning, it’s good to see this fund being set-up and plans being put in place to give Long Covid patients the expert help they need.
“Many people affected by Long Covid are key workers; this is essential investment in helping the country and the health service get back on its feet.”
The announcement follows Yousaf meeting with a range of healthcare professionals at Eastwood Health and Care Centre in East Renfrewshire and speaking with patient Pamela Bell who has been receiving support for Long Covid since she contracted the virus almost a year ago.
Bell, 62, from Glasgow, met with the Health Secretary to discuss her experience since testing positive for Covid last September. She has a mild chest condition – bronchiectasis – which meant she had to shield at the start of the pandemic. After contracting the virus she was admitted to hospital where she ended up in intensive care and intubated for almost three months.
By the time she was transferred to a respiratory ward on Hogmanay, she could not move and ultimately went to a physical disability rehabilitation unit for intensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
She also received intervention and oxygen therapy in a respiratory ward, and returned home with long-term oxygen at the beginning of June, where she receives ongoing care from a community rehabilitation team to support her to regain her independence, function and mobility. Mrs Bell, who previously worked in a children’s nursery, has had to retire due to ill health.
Bell, a mother-of-two who is due to become a grandmother next spring, said: “Recently I was able to walk for two minutes and 40 seconds – which is a huge achievement for me.
“Before Covid, I was a senior child development officer, which involved outdoor play. I’d be in the playground or taking the children on forest walks, doing at least 15,000 steps a day. I’d help out in my community. I was there for everybody.
“This last year has been a challenge, when I’ve had to let other people take care of me. But I’m blown away by everything I’ve been given by the NHS. They are just amazing. Some of them visit me weekly, some are at the end of the phone, they deliver my oxygen and really look after me.”