Cole-Hamilton: Deploy volunteer army to help long Covid sufferers

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today said that the Scottish Government must offer new hope to long Covid sufferers as he set out proposals to remobilise volunteers and give people more options for treatment by expanding social prescribing. 

Social prescribing involves helping patients to improve their health and wellbeing by connecting them to a range of community and non-clinical services at no cost to the patient.

During the first wave a Scotland Cares volunteer scheme was launched. Under Mr Cole-Hamilton’s proposals volunteers could be remobilised to help long Covid sufferers with basic tasks such as shopping and chores that they are unable to accomplish alone. 

The proposals build on previous measures proposed by Mr Cole-Hamilton which include: 

  • Specialist long Covid clinics in every health board
  • The training of long Covid community nurses to offer in-home support   
  • Country-wide access to long Covid physiotherapy and multi-disciplinary rehab 
  • A policy of no financial detriment for Scottish public sector workers who are absent for long periods of time due to long Covid.   

Long Covid has been described as potentially the largest mass disabling event in modern times. It is characterised by symptoms including cognitive impairment (brain fog), gastrointestinal problems, chronic fatigue, dizziness, muscle wastage and ‘air-hunger’ (when someone feels they can’t fill their lungs with enough oxygen.)   

It comes ahead of the publication of new figures this week. The previous set showed 92,000 people in Scotland reporting suffering long Covid.

Alex 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. 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.” 

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