The Sunday Post (Inverness)

Snow problem for the Jambos

One in 10 Scots catching coronaviru­s face many months of debilitati­ng symptoms but patients fear our health boards are flounderin­g

- By Janet Boyle

Charlie Adam’s mood is matched by the weather after Dundee’s draw, coupled with Raith Rovers also dropping points handed Hearts the Championsh­ip title – and @Jamtarts weren’t slow to let everyone know.

Scots suffering Long Covid fear a postcode lottery means effective diagnosis and treatment depends on where you live and on which side of the border.

An estimated 700,000 patients in the UK have described debilitati­ng long-lasting symptoms after Covid, with many complainin­g the condition is little understood and treatment haphazard. Scotland has not followed England in providing specialist centres for the debilitati­ng symptoms, which can last for months after the virus – although some patients there complain finding effective treatment remains patchy – while health boards here promise to deliver treatment closer to home.

However, a survey of Scots health boards reveals a wide disparity in the treatment offered to patients as experts warn GPS struggle to know where to refer them. Professor Kate O’donnell, of Glasgow University’s department of Primary Care Research and Developmen­t, said: “It is difficult to get care and that is an issue. We are hearing this from GPS and it is difficult for them to know where to send patients. Finding a place to refer them is not easy.

“There is now a high awareness of Long Covid and a lot of discussion around the rehabilita­tion and research needed to treat patients. It is clear that many people have had damage to their organs. Many were fit and healthy before March last year.” Professor O’donnell and her team are launching research into Long Covid patients who were tested for the virus later this month. Patients who tested positive and negative will complete questionna­ires asking about ongoing symptoms and returning to normal life. “We are looking for the characteri­stics of those who tested positive,” professor O’donnell added. “However, we will not be able to tap into those not tested.” Very few early Long Covid sufferers not admitted to hospital had a test, says Lesley Macniven, a founder of Long Covid Scotland, and they have no documentat­ion to prove they had Covid and are now enduring long-lasting symptoms. The writer and diversity consultant from Edinburgh said people struggling with chronic fatigue and other debilitati­ng symptoms have been dismissed by doctors and researcher­s as they pleaded for help and support.

“The lack of availabili­ty of tests in the first wave has led many to be unable to prove they had the virus and are often unable to be diagnosed and treated with Long Covid.

“Patients are often having to hunt for supportive GPS to accept their account of having had Covid. In effect, we are being penalised for lack of testing provision that was the fault of the government. Now they have to shout to be recognised.

“A year later many have still not had an assessment or had their prolonged symptoms investigat­ed. Those who had a positive test appear to have had an easier journey though they may still not find much in the way of treatment.”

The Royal College of GPS (RCGP) has called for better recognitio­n of Long Covid. Dr Gail Allsopp leads on Long Covid for the RCGP and said it was wrong that patients were being denied treatment because they don’t have a positive test.

“I am saddened to hear these stories. It is important patients keep talking out loud,” she said. “The frustratio­n is not just with patients but with clinicians on the ground. I myself, as a GP, have tried to refer patients to have these patients told they are suffering with anxiety.” The struggle to get adequate treatment for Long Covid is verified by chronic fatigue charity, the ME Associatio­n. Ewan Dale, from the charity said: “People with Long Covid are approachin­g us but there is no place to send them. “Some are being advised by GPS to exercise when evidence shows that post-viral fatigue needs rest, not exertion, to recover. “There seems to be little guidance on how to treat patients. Many were not desperatel­y ill with Covid but now have chronic symptoms worse than the virus. “Some have long-term organ damage and need ongoing medical care, not an eventual referral to an occupation­al therapist.” Scottish Intercolle­giate Guidelines Network (Sign), the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the English equivalent, and the RCGP have issued joint guidelines on the treatment of Long Covid. Sign, which is part of Healthcare Improvemen­t Scotland, said: “Evidence from patient experience has shown that many people feel their symptoms are not taken seriously by GPS when discussing Long Covid. The national guideline published in December 2020 recommends that clinicians take time to listen and show empathy.

“The guideline recognises that many people who had acute Covid-19 were not tested, particular­ly earlier in the pandemic. As a result, the guideline is clear that people should not be excluded from a Long Covid assessment, or for further investigat­ions or specialist input, based on the absence of a positive Covid-19 test.”

The Scottish government says it supports developmen­ts of clinical guidance on long-term effects of Covid but wants patients to be treated near home by GPS, physiother­apists and occupation­al therapists and speech therapists. “Unlike other major chronic illnesses, like rheumatolo­gy, cardiology and dermatolog­y, care will not be centralise­d in teaching hospitals or specialist clinics. “Our approach is for people to have access to the support they need for assessment, diagnosis, care and rehabilita­tion in a setting close to their home,” said a spokespers­on.

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Barbara Melville, 37, who is in long-term recovery with Covid-19, shows a list of her symptoms
Barbara Melville, 37, who is in long-term recovery with Covid-19, shows a list of her symptoms
 ?? Lesley Macniven, founder of Long Covid Scotland ??
Lesley Macniven, founder of Long Covid Scotland

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom