Most Scottish health boards have used less than half long Covid money – study

Four health boards did not use any of their long Covid funding in 2022-23.

Ministers have been warned to “change tack” on long Covid as figures show most health boards spent less than half of the allocated funding.

Figures analysed by the Scottish Liberal Democrats show just three health boards: Lanarkshire, Orkney and the Western Isles, used all of their funding for the condition in 2022-23.

Meanwhile, four boards: Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Forth Valley and Shetland, did not use a penny of theirs.

Health boards were allocated different amounts based on their individual needs.

But NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde used only about 2% of the £595,169 – the most given to any of the health boards, amounting to just £12,992 spent.

NHS Grampian spend just 13% of the £254,842 allocated, while NHS Lothian used £17% of its £372,215.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran used 19%, while the Borders used 22%, Highlands 37% and 58% in Tayside.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “So much of this staggering underspend comes down to the SNP Government’s failure to commit to supporting health boards in the long term.”

He accused First Minister Humza Yousaf of “hiding behind the excuse” of staffing, after he said last year the underspend was due to delays in recruiting posts.

But Mr Cole-Hamilton said the Scottish Government had been warned the non-recurring nature of the funding would pose problems with recruitment due to the creation of temporary posts.

Speaking on long Covid awareness day, he added: “We also know that the Government now plans to stretch long Covid funding over five years rather than three, with the total funding available remaining unchanged.

“This lacklustre and incoherent approach is an insult to those ordinary Scots who face breathing difficulties, crushing fatigue, and any number of other debilitating symptoms associated with the condition.”

“In England, new care pathways are already up and running but in Scotland we are far behind.

“I want to see the Scottish Government changing tack and working with health boards to ensure funding can be put to use to help all those in need.

“This starts by addressing obstacles that would otherwise prevent key funding from being spent.”

Public health minister Jenni Minto said the Scottish Government takes “long Covid very seriously” and recognises the impact it can have on those affected.

Ms Minto added: “Thanks to backing from our £10 million Long Covid Support Fund, 12 out of 14 NHS boards have active long Covid pathways in operation, and elsewhere well-established referral pathways exist to a range of services which can provide support to people with symptoms resulting from long Covid.

“Boards didn’t need to use all of the money made available to them over the first year of the fund but we remain committed to delivering the fund in full.

“The vast majority of boards have now accessed the funds available or increased the amount spent.

“We regularly engage with boards on their capacity needs and to inform the allocation of the fund. We will consider baselining funding at a level based on progress made over 2023-24.”

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