Just over 1% of people suffering from long Covid have been referred to a support scheme, new figures show.
The Office for National Statistics said on Thursday that an estimated 100,000 people in Scotland are living with the effects of long Covid, which can exacerbate symptoms and see them last much longer than traditional infections.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf – in answer to a written question at Holyrood from Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton – said 1,157 people had been referred to the Long Covid Support Scheme run by Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland as of December.
During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Mr Cole-Hamilton called on Nicola Sturgeon to intervene.
But she responded: “There’s no need to intervene, because this work is being taken forward.
“People with long Covid will be receiving support at different levels and parts of the National Health Service, many people will be receiving support from their GP and it’s right that support is provided on a holistic basis.”
Some 40,000 people are estimated to have been suffering from long Covid for at least 12 months.
Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland chief executive Jane-Claire Judson said the fact that GPs cannot automatically refer patients to the service is a “missed opportunity”.
She said: “Long Covid is causing lasting harm to thousands of people living with debilitating symptoms like fatigue, breathlessness, and chest pain. They desperately need support.
“We still hear all too often from people who struggle to get help. It’s been almost two years since the start of the pandemic and we’re still not getting this system right. It just isn’t joined up – and it needs to be fixed.
“For example, our Long Covid Support Service is there to help people living with the most common symptoms, but as it stands GPs can’t refer to the service automatically.
“It’s a missed opportunity to create the wraparound service people with long Covid say they need – and we’re appealing for the Cabinet Secretary to help make urgent improvements.”