A campaigner for children with long Covid said she was shocked to overhear a top Scottish Government official describe parents as "extremists" if they wanted more done to limit the spread of Covid in schools.

Helen Goss told the Scottish Covid inquiry that she had joined a webinar organised by the National Parent Forum in September 2021 where Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland's national clinical director, was taking part in a Q&A.

Ms Goss, the chief operating officer for the charity Long Covid Kids Scotland, said she had signed into the session early but that Prof Leitch - who was speaking to the webinar's host - "was not aware that his camera and mic were on".

She said: "He referred to parents, advocates and campaigners who were campaigning for mitigations and public health measures as 'extremists'.

"He said that there were either the 'extremists' on one end who were telling him that he was destroying children’s education [by] keeping schools closed, and on the other end the 'extremists' who were saying that he’s harming our children and needed to do more.”

The Herald: Prof Leitch was a high profile figure during the pandemic delivering public health messagingProf Leitch was a high profile figure during the pandemic delivering public health messaging (Image: PA)

Ms Goss, whose daughter has long Covid, said Prof Leitch subsequently apologised to her "for his language".

She added: “I think it’s really important to highlight that because I think that it shows potentially what the Government were feeling at the time.

"That people who were campaigning for the health and wellbeing of children had ‘extreme’ views.

"I don’t believe that the health of children is an extreme view.”

Prof Leitch is due to give evidence at a later stage in the inquiry.

Ms Goss told the inquiry that she had "spent many an evening crying on the bathroom floor" due to the lack of support from the NHS, social care, and education services for her "very sick" daughter.

She added: "The impact on families is life-changing, devastating. It has broken up families.

"Parents and carers have lost their jobs because they have to care full time now for their sick child.

"Families have had to move house because if they've gone down to one income perhaps they need to downsize.

"Families have also had to move into more appropriate houses - there's one family in Scotland who recently had to move to a bungalow because the stairs were too much for the child."

It is estimated that, as of May 2022, more than 10,000 children in Scotland were living with long Covid symptoms which can range from extreme fatigue and muscle aches to cardiovascular, neurological and gastrointestinal problems.

Long Covid Kids Scotland provides support to more than 250 families, but Ms Goss said this was "growing all the time".

She said that there remains a misconception that long Covid mainly affects children with underlying health conditions, or those infected during the first wave.

She said: "People don't realise that you can develop long Covid on any subsequent infection, so while you might have been fine with your first, second, third Covid infection, on your fourth infection you may develop long Covid.

"And I don't think the consequences of that are really understood.

"Think about your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews - what they're doing right now is they're going to school, they're enjoying their hobbies, they're socialising, they're living their best lives.

"Then imagine they get Covid and you think 'it's not too bad, it's just a cold' - as we're told - and then a month later, two months later perhaps, they can't go to school, they can't do their hobbies, they can't socialise.

"They're very, very sick, and that could last a very long time. Years."

The Herald: Ms Goss said families continue to have no access to long Covid support for children on the NHS in ScotlandMs Goss said families continue to have no access to long Covid support for children on the NHS in Scotland (Image: PA)

In March 2022, the Scottish Government earmarked £10 million over three years for a "strategic network" fund designed to help the 14 territorial health boards in Scotland develop long Covid services.

Ms Goss said this was "not very much at all" and that children's services had been overlooked.

She said: “Unfortunately they started planning, developing and implementing adult services and in a meeting in February this year one of the lead clinicians for one of the health boards said they didn’t realise that they needed to develop paediatric services.

"I really fail to understand how we’ve come this far and they still don’t know that we need paediatric services when I and Long Covid Kids have been having regular meetings with the Scottish Government.

"The Scottish Government are well aware that children can develop long Covid and need some healthcare support and treatment, so why has this not translated down to the very network who are supposed to be implementing this?"

The inquiry, before Lord Brailsford, resumes on Tuesday.