Over 70,000 Scots with long Covid 'not receiving support they need'

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland says tens of thousands of Scots are unable to work due to the condition.

Tens of thousands of people across Scotland living with long Covid are not receiving the support they need to cope with the effects of the debilitating illness, a charity has warned.

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) estimates there could be more than 70,000 Scots who are unable to work due to the condition, which can cause chest and joint pain, heart palpitations and depression.

The charity recently surveyed almost 2,000 people living with chest, heart and stroke conditions as well as long Covid to understand the challenges facing them in their daily lives, including the impact on their mental health.

A report setting out the survey results shows around 40% of people with long Covid are unable to work at all, which it believes could equate to as many as 72,000 people having quit their jobs due to the illness since 2020.

The survey also highlighted around 72% of sufferers said they need support but are unable to access it, 82% have some kind of difficulty accessing services, and 38% said their doctor is unable to provide guidance on available support.

CHSS is now calling on the Scottish Government to increase the financial support available to those living with long Covid amid concern the cost of living crisis is causing sufferers who cannot work extreme financial hardship.

It is estimated more than 180,000 people in Scotland have self-reported long Covid, which is understood to work out to around 3.5% of the population.

Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive of CHSS, said: “Covid is still having a huge impact on 180,000 people in Scotland and these people are living in crisis.

“Not only are they experiencing a debilitating health condition, many are also facing extreme financial hardship due to their inability to work. Hardship that is compounded by the impact of the cost of living crisis.

“We need the Scottish Government to consider greater financial support for people living with long Covid who are navigating this economic crisis and provide clarity around access and eligibility for benefits.

“The Scottish Government cannot leave people with long Covid to face unemployment in an economic crisis.

“We urgently need the Scottish Government to review the financial support available and ensure that people can access it.

“People with long Covid can’t wait any longer. They are struggling financially and support from the NHS is patchy at best.”

Dr Amy Small, GP and clinical adviser to CHSS, added: “Doctors are desperate to help people living with long Covid, but sadly current pathways in most health boards don’t have the clinical support that is desperately needed.

“We do have medications that can be used to help treat the symptoms of long Covid, but many GPs don’t have experience of using these medications and need support from those doctors who are used to seeing patients with the complications of long Covid.

“More needs to be done to embed doctors within long Covid pathways to support the allied health professionals working in them.”

Public Health Minister Jenni Minto said: “We take long Covid very seriously and recognise the impact it can have on those most severely affected.

“Through our £10m long Covid support fund, we are making available £3m this financial year to support NHS boards to increase the capacity of existing services, and develop more clearly defined local pathways. This funding is in addition to what our healthcare system – supported by £19.5bn – is already delivering across our full range of NHS services.

“Ensuring that people access the social security benefits they are entitled to is a priority. Through our benefit take-up strategy we are implementing a range of initiatives and welfare advice services work closely with people who may be entitled to devolved or reserved benefits.”

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