Ministers have been told to stop side-stepping on long Covid funding after new data revealed more than 90,000 Scots have been living with the condition.
Statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that 13,000 of the 94,000 long Covid sufferers had their lives severely impacted by the condition.
Long Covid can be a debilitating condition that causes fatigue, brain fog and breathing problems.
Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland has urged the Scottish Government to stop delaying support.
Charity bosses have said GPs in every NHS health board must be given the ability to refer patients to a specialist long Covid pathway.
And Scottish Liberal Democrat analysis of the statistics estimates that just £17 per head is being spent on tackling the condition in Scotland, compared to funding interventions in England amounting to £116 for every person, and £105 in Wales.
The estimation is based on previous ONS data which suggests long Covid may be a factor in the significant increase of long-term sickness across the UK.
Jane-Claire Judson, of Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government really needs to stop delaying action action on long Covid.
“We know from engaging with service users at our long Covid support groups that people feel scared, abandoned and left behind, with little access to support services they need.
“We are three years on from the start of the pandemic and people with long Covid are still crying out for basic, well-coordinated support. There are solutions out there to improve the coordination of care, like our long Covid Pathway project with NHS Lothian. We need to see this integrated approach rolled out across the country.
“GPs in every Health Board across Scotland should be able to refer long Covid patients to our service, reducing their workload whilst providing effective, targeted support to people living with long Covid.
“The Scottish Government must stop side-stepping this major public health issue, and instead commit to tackling it head-on.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “ONS data shows thousands more working-age people are economically inactive due to ill health. That is the price of both long waiting lists for treatment and long Covid.
“£17 a head is the price of a takeaway. That’s all ministers think long Covid patients are worth.
“In the middle of a downturn, amid low productivity and labour shortages, we need the talents of everyone to grow the economy and make our country fairer. That’s what this afternoon’s budget should be about.
“Instead there is not a single word of comfort throughout its 158-pages to the 175,000 sufferers of long Covid. The First Minister must invest in their futures and help them get better.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “All NHS Scotland boards are providing assessment and support for people with long Covid, delivered across the full range of NHS services – backed by our substantial 2022-23 £18bn investment in health.
“Over 2022-23 we’ve made available an initial £3m from our £10m long Covid Support Fund to provide NHS boards and partners with additional resource to deliver the best local models of care for assessment, and support for the treatment or management of symptoms.
“We’re working closely with boards, third-sector organisations – including Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland – and people living with long Covid to identify opportunities to maximise the impact of funding available.”
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