DEMANDS have been made for an “ambitious and forward-looking plan” to treat thousands suffering with long Covid in Scotland.

It has been estimated that up to 80,000 people in Scotland have experienced long Covid – with Office for National Statistics (ONS) data suggesting one in seven continue to experience Covid symptoms for more than 12 weeks.

In England £34 million has been allocated for long Covid clinics along with £5 million in Wales. Scottish Labour is calling on the SNP Government to do likewise.

The party is urging Scottish ministers to immediately set up a network of specialist long Covid clinics, invest in research to better understand long Covid and acknowledge long Covid as an occupational disease.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, said: “Long Covid is our next health and economic crisis.

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“As we speak, thousands of Scots living with long Covid are suffering and are being denied the targeted help that others in England and Wales are receiving.

“We are calling for the establishment of specialist long Covid clinics, investment in Scottish-specific research into long Covid and the recognition of long Covid as an occupational disease.

“We can’t have Scotland being left behind. It’s time for action to tackle long Covid, not dither and delay.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said officials are holding talks with those who have long Covid to “see what more we can do”, adding: “I wouldn’t rule anything out in the future.”.

Speaking on the Sunday Show, Mr Yousaf added: “There is still a lot about long Covid that we do not know.

“It’s really important that we understand long Covid. That will then determine what multi-disciplinary teams of specialists we need to help those individuals.”

The Health Secretary stressed it was important to ensure long Covid services were provided “as close to a person’s home” as possible.

He added: “I’ve heard a lot from those who either suffer long Covid themselves or GPs that have seen patients with long Covid.

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“I certainly think there’s more for us to consider what more we can do. Certainly understanding more about long Covid is going to be key to that response.”

GPs in Scotland have warned the numbers of long Covid cases are putting them under growing pressure.

Doctors’ leaders said the potential need to carry out two vaccination programmes, for both seasonal flu and coronavirus booster doses, may also stretch their services in the coming months.

A number of factors have led to growing workloads for GPs, according to anecdotal data from the BMA Scotland union.

Dr Patricia Moultrie, deputy chair of the Scottish GPs committee of the BMA, said the union is “more concerned than it has been for a long time”.

She said: “General practices are in a very difficult place workload-wise, and we are very anxious about what the future weeks and months hold.

“It does look as though long Covid is going to be an illness that’s going to be managed in the community, and it’s good that fewer people are being admitted to hospital.

“We are very concerned about the workload that is going to be sitting in the community with the pandemic.”