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SNP must act as Long Covid cases rise in Scotland but fall in England

The Scottish Conservatives have today warned Humza Yousaf to stop ‘dithering’ and act now, after new figures showed the number of Long Covid cases is rising in Scotland and falling in England.

The party are demanding that the SNP Health Secretary belatedly follows their calls to set up a network of specialist clinics across Scotland after the Office for National Statistics estimated 199,000 people in Scotland are now suffering with Long Covid.

This upper estimate figure represents an 18% rise on the 169,000 patients in Scotland believed to be suffering from the condition three months earlier.

In contrast, in England – where specialist Long Covid clinics are in operation – according to upper estimates, the number of cases has dropped 17% from 1,733,000 to 1,445,000 over the same period.

Shadow Health Secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane has been urging the SNP Government to introduce Long Covid clinics for over a year, to give GPs – such as himself – a clearer pathway for getting patients the help they need to treat the debilitating condition.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Health Secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, said: “These alarming figures must act as a wake-up call to Humza Yousaf to stop dithering and act now.

“The ONS are clear that Long Covid cases are rising in Scotland, on the SNP’s watch, while they are falling south of the border, where specialist clinics are up and running.

“The SNP Health Secretary has ignored repeated calls from sufferers and opposition politicians, like myself, to deliver the required funding for specialised Long Covid clinics, which are already in operation in England. He can no longer ignore these calls in light of these figures.

“Almost 200,000 Scots are now battling Long Covid , and yet GPs are struggling to point patients towards the specialist care they need.

“The SNP must belatedly act now. As Parliament returns next week, the suffering of Long Covid patients must be a top priority for Humza Yousaf.

“He should get behind the proposals I set out more than a year ago for a network of clinics across Scotland.”

Notes

Over the last three months, cases of Long Covid have increased in Scotland and declined in England. Since June, the estimated number of people living in private households in Scotland with self-reported Long Covid of any duration has increased (upper estimate) from 169,000 to 199,000, equivalent to 17.8%. However, in England, the upper estimate was 1,733,000 in June and 1,445,000 in September, a decline of 16.6%. (Office for National Statistics, Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus infection in the UK, table 1, 1 September 2022, link).

Over the last three months, the number of people suffering from Long Covid for over a year has soared by more than 50% in Scotland, but declined in England. In June, the estimated number of people living in private households in Scotland with self-reported long COVID who first had  Covid-19 at least 12 months previously was 61,000 (upper estimate). Now, it is 92,000, an increase of 50.8%. In England however, the upper estimate has declined from 752,000 to 681,000, a decline of 9.4%. (Office for National Statistics, Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus infection in the UK, table 3 1 September 2022, link).

The number of people suffering from Long Covid has increased at a much faster rate in Scotland than in England. In September 2021, the estimated number of people living in private households in Scotland with self-reported Long Covid of any duration was 83,000 (upper estimate). Now, it is 199,000, a rise of 139.8%. In England however, the number of people suffering from Long Covid has increased by 67.1% from 865,000 to 1,445,000 (upper estimate). (Office for National Statistics, Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus infection in the UK, table 1, 1 September 2022, link).

 

The ONS estimates that 199,000 Scots are suffering with Long Covid. This is equivalent to 3.8% of people living in private households. The latest statistics cover the four-week period ending 31 July 2022. The data is gathered from responses to the Coronavirus Infection Survey. (Office for National Statistics, Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus infection in the UK, table 1, 1 September 2022, link).

 

92,000 Scots have been experiencing Long Covid symptoms for more than a year. The ONS data reveals that 92,000 Scots have been suffering for more than 12 months, up from 32,000 in September 2021 and 57,000 in March 2022. (Office for National Statistics, Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus infection in the UK, table 3, 1 September 2022, link).

 

The SNP are failing to deliver a network of Long Covid clinics. Despite over 90 clinics existing in England and across other areas of the UK, the SNP Government have failed to offer Scots an equivalent level of treatment and support. (Scottish Conservatives, Back to Normality, 2 February 2022, link).

The SNP Government are providing just £3 million this year to tackle Long Covid. The £10 million Long Covid Support Fund is to be allocated over three financial years, and will be shared by all 14 health boards. This funding will not touch the sides of the problem. (Scottish Government, 19 May 2022, link).

In June last year, the Scottish Conservatives published a policy paper on Long Covid. This raised awareness of the extent and impact of the disease and what we should be doing to tackle it. It recommends establishing specialist clinics to take the pressure off other areas of the NHS. We also back the creation of a Long Covid care fund and greater research by health and scientific experts into the disease. (Scottish Conservatives, Treating Long Covid in Scotland, 23 June 2021, link).