A new £10 million long Covid support fund to help health boards respond to the condition has been announced by the Health Secretary.
The fund is designed to maximise and improve the co-ordination of many existing services across the health and social care system and third sector in response to long Covid.
Humza Yousaf made the announcement on Thursday after meeting patient Pamela Bell, 62, who has been left unable to walk far after contracting coronavirus almost a year ago and has had to retire from working in a nursery.
Mr Yousaf also met a range of healthcare professionals at Eastwood Health and Care Centre in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire.
He said: “We know that long Covid can’t be handled with a one-size-fits-all approach. It can be complex and involve an array of diverse symptoms and combinations of those symptoms.
“The new long Covid support fund will give our NHS Boards the flexibility to design and deliver the best care for those with long Covid, tailored to the specific needs of their populations.
“It’s been great to meet Pamela and hear how she has benefited from care and rehabilitation in a setting close to home.
“Long Covid patients are being supported by the full range of NHS services – primary care teams and community-based rehabilitation services with referrals to secondary care where necessary – and I want to thank our dedicated staff for their hard work.”
He added: “Ultimately, hopefully what it will mean for those that are suffering the long-term effects of Covid is that they hopefully can be seen quicker, they can get that expertise and it can be a lot more personalised to their individual circumstances.”
The Scottish Government said the fund will be flexible and tailored to local needs, and will strengthen the range of information and advice available.
It will ensure the right support is available within primary care, providing a response focused on each patient’s needs, with referrals to secondary care where necessary.
Mrs Bell, 62, from Glasgow, tested positive for Covid last September.
She has a mild chest condition – bronchiectasis – which meant she had to shield at the start of the pandemic and after contracting the virus was admitted to hospital, where she ended up in intensive care and was intubated for almost three months.
By the time she was transferred to a respiratory ward at Hogmanay, she could not move and ultimately went to a physical disability rehabilitation unit for intensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
She also received intervention and oxygen therapy in a respiratory ward, and returned home with long-term oxygen at the beginning of June, where she receives ongoing care from a community rehabilitation team to support her to regain her independence, function and mobility.
Mrs Bell, a mother of two who is due to become a grandmother next spring, said: “Recently I was able to walk for two minutes and 40 seconds – which is a huge achievement for me.
“Before Covid, I was a senior child development officer, which involved outdoor play. I’d be in the playground or taking the children on forest walks, doing at least 15,000 steps a day. I’d help out in my community. I was there for everybody.
“This last year has been a challenge, when I’ve had to let other people take care of me. But I’m blown away by everything I’ve been given by the NHS.
“They are just amazing. Some of them visit me weekly, some are at the end of the phone, they deliver my oxygen and really look after me.”
Mrs Bell said she is focusing on being strong for the arrival of her first grandchild next year.
She said: “I’ve had one really bad day when I just cried all day and I thought this isn’t me and then my GP was amazing, I phoned him, he said ‘look at what you couldn’t do and what you can do now’, so that’s really given me a boost.
“Every time I feel a bit sad I look back to last week and I look at this week and I just keep going.
“I have to keep going, I’ve got a grandchild coming in March so I have to keep going, I have to walk that pram down the street.”
She added: “I’m lucky. I’ve survived.”
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