An army of volunteers should be deployed to help people suffering from long Covid, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have said.
Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has called for more options, support and treatment for long Covid patients, and urged the Scottish Government to mobilise volunteers who could help with shopping or household chores.
Ahead of the release of the new estimates of the number of Scots experiencing longer-term symptoms after contracting coronavirus, Mr Cole-Hamilton criticised the “woeful provision” currently available.
The latest Office for National Statistics figures from the start of October estimated that 1.2 million people in the UK – 1.9% of the population – were experiencing long Covid.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “A crisis on that scale would normally be cause for the Health Secretary to clear his diary but despite patients being left literally gasping for breath serious action seems to be beyond the SNP.
“Long Covid patients here would be better off moving to England where there are well-established clinics and a care pathway, given how woeful provision for the condition is here in Scotland. We shouldn’t be afraid to learn from successes elsewhere in the UK.
“I want to give patients with long Covid new hope for the future.”
Calling for the government to organise volunteers in a way similar to the Scotland Cares scheme launched during the first wave, Mr Cole-Hamilton added: “We have an army of volunteers who would be happy to help people in need but the government needs to take on a coordinating role to make that happen.
“It’s also clear that the needs of people with long Covid are complex and varied.
“That’s why I am calling for local health teams to be given expanded powers and information to prescribe non-clinical interventions and activities, from gentle exercise to singing lessons which sufferers have found can help with breathing.
“The SNP Government has overlooked this hidden pandemic for too long and needs to start delivering for the tens of thousands of Scots who are battling this devastating condition.
“Long Covid patients need new hope for their health and I’m determined that they get it.”