Hundreds of Scots police officers and staff hit by long Covid

Police Scotland officers and staff are suffering from long covid, which has impacted on response times.

Long Covid related illnesses have resulted in less staff being able to work 

By Lucy Ashton

Hundreds of Police Scotland officers and staff have been off work suffering from long Covid since the pandemic hit.

A total of 345 employees recorded an absence under the ‘Covid-19 – Post Covid Syndrome’ category – which is used for anyone with a Covid-related absence of more than 12 weeks – on the force’s personnel database.

Around 212 have been suffering from long Covid absences, which has been recorded by police officers since the category was introduced in July 2020.

According to the figures, obtained by Scottish justice and social affairs magazine ‘1919’ through a Freedom of Information request, in the current financial year up to December there were 131 long Covid absences recorded by officers and staff.

The NHS describes the most common long Covid symptoms as extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, loss of smell and muscle aches, though the condition and its effects are still being studied.

The Scottish Government has invested £3 million to enable patients access to services including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and mental health support.

But it has been claimed this has not gone far enough to help those affected by the “hugely debilitating” condition.

David Kennedy, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “The issues surrounding Covid-19 will be far-reaching for generations and we can only hope that the public inquiries both in Scotland and the UK wide will shine a light on these issues.

“We need to make sure that our governments and police services continue to help their police officers and staff as they come to terms with the impact that long Covid is having in their lives.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said his party wanted to see dedicated long Covid clinics across the country and Scotland-wide access to physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

Referring to the number of police officers impacted by the condition, he said: “Figures like these emphasise why we need to treat long Covid with the seriousness it merits.

“Long Covid is a hugely debilitating condition, but the Scottish Government’s response has been lacklustre. This paltry response will only lead to higher staff and officer absences and to more patients being put on hold without solutions.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf defended his government’s response and investment in services to help those suffering with the condition.

He told 1919: “Over 2022/23 we’ve made available an initial £3 million from our £10 million long Covid Support Fund to provide NHS boards and partners with additional resource to deliver the best local models of care for assessment, and support for the treatment or management of symptoms.

“Initiatives being supported by the funding include key elements of care that are also offered by long Covid assessment clinics elsewhere in the UK, including single point of access for assessment and co-ordinated support from physiotherapy, occupational therapy and other services tailored to people’s needs.

“We’re working closely with boards, third-sector organisations and people living with long Covid to identify opportunities to maximise the impact of funding available.”

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