A £760,000 joint funding package has been announced to improve care for people with long Covid.
Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS), which is providing £300,000 of the funds, said the investment is a “vital first step” towards providing better all-round care for people suffering the debilitating long-term effects of the virus.
Long Covid is a complex condition and sufferers experience a variety of symptoms ranging from breathlessness, chronic fatigue and anxiety to stress.
It is estimated as many as 10% of people who have had the virus are now living with long Covid in Scotland.
It has been described by some as the “pandemic behind the pandemic”.
The funding will boost capacity for CHSS support services and over the coming months it will also lead to the creation of a co-ordinated nationwide “care pathway” between the NHS, GPs and the charity.
Jane-Claire Judson, CHSS chief executive, said: “No-one should be left to struggle with long Covid alone. This joint funding package with the Scottish Government is a vital first step in providing better all-round care for people suffering the debilitating long-term effects of this devastating virus.
“There are a number of steps still to take to get to a fully integrated, nationwide service for long Covid, but this funding will make sure that people can now get better support.
“Over the coming months we will be working with people living with long Covid, the NHS and the Scottish Government to make sure that the process of accessing the full range of help and support gets easier.
“Right now, we’re encouraging people affected to call our long Covid advice line on 0808 801 0899 for help. Please do not suffer alone.”
The charity set up the advice line to help people with long Covid manage feelings of anxiety, breathlessness, fatigue and stress.
CHSS said its services will become a routine part of the NHS referral system over the coming months, meaning GPs and health professionals will automatically be able to refer patients for help.
The Scottish Government is contributing £460,000.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “We know that many people are suffering from the effects of the virus on both their physical and mental health.
‘The impact of this virus affects your whole life. I lost the job that I loved because I wasn’t well enough to continue, I lost my health and it really affects you mentally.’Dr Amy Small, a GP who has been living with long Covid
“We are committed to ensuring they have nationwide and co-ordinated care that meets their needs. I’m pleased that working with Chest, Heart & Stroke we are able to benefit from their experience and with the financial support we’ve provided, work to help provide the right care to those affected.
“There is still much to learn and a great deal to be done, but this Government, clinicians, specialist healthcare professionals and important organisations like Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland are working hard to make sure people can access the services currently available and that we make the improvements needed as quickly as possible.”
Dr Amy Small, a GP who has been living with long Covid, said: “Having someone to help you live day-to-day with long Covid is so important.
“The impact of this virus affects your whole life. I lost the job that I loved because I wasn’t well enough to continue, I lost my health and it really affects you mentally.
“There’s lots that we still need to fix, but it’s great to see that everyone is coming together to build the service that people with long Covid need and want.”