By Lucy Ashton

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie wants the establ;ishment of specialist clinics for long covid to speeded up by the government.

She told Humza Yousaf: “The cabinet secretary will know that I asked the First Minister about long Covid clinics earlier today.

“Her response was pretty identical to a response that I received eight months ago, and the cabinet secretary’s response now does not reflect the experience of people on the ground.

“I entirely accept that we need holistic support but, at the moment, there is little to no support at all for constituents in my area.

“People are suffering from long Covid and they need help now, not at some point in the future. Can the cabinet secretary tell me what he can do to speed up the establishment of specialist clinics?”

Humza Yousaf, left, replied: “I disagree with some of the characterisations in Ms Baillie’s question. To suggest that those people do not have any support whatsoever does a disservice to the support that is being provided by GPs, other primary care givers and secondary care givers.

“It is not the case that individuals with long Covid—[Interruption.] If Ms Baillie would listen, as opposed to shouting to me from a sedentary position, I might be able to engage better on the issue. It is not the case that those patients are not getting any support whatsoever.

“With regard to specialist clinics, I have just read some of the lived experience and feedback from people with long Covid in England, over 70 per cent of whom were not satisfied with the support that they had been receiving—or not receiving—from long Covid clinics in England and Wales.”

He added: “I will, of course, engage with Ms Baillie; I have previously engaged with her on occasion, and I will continually do so throughout the period.

“However, although I am happy to have a conversation with her about what more support we can provide, I am afraid to say that it is not as simple as transplanting a model from England up here in Scotland.

“We need to take into account our country’s unique geography as well as the unique healthcare set-up of our national health service in Scotland. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we can and should engage on this matter to see what more support we can provide for those suffering from long Covid.”

His SNP colleague Fulton MacGregor asked the government to provide an update on its treatment plans for people with long Covid. 

However, Mr Yousaf said it is crucial that decisions are based on the latest available evidence and, of course, clinical guidance.

He added: “Our approach is for people to have access to the support that they need for assessments, diagnosis, care and—importantly—rehabilitation in a setting that is as close to their home as possible.

“National health service boards right across Scotland are co-ordinating and providing local pathways to ensure a multidisciplinary and person-centred approach in their local area.

“Additionally, we invested more than £460,000 in Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland to enable it to deliver long Covid support services, which complement the support that is being provided by NHS Scotland.”

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