Shetland Times Column 19th November 2021

It is estimated that the number of people in Scotland affected by Long Covid is 79,000 and rising. With little indication from the Scottish Government as to its intention on how people living with Long Covid will be supported, it was Scottish Liberal Democrats, led by Alex Cole-Hamilton, who brought a debate on the subject to parliament last week.

After contracting Covid-19 thousands have reported long-lasting symptoms including fatigue, breathlessness, muscle aches, memory loss, a persistent cough. 

For so many, including people in the isles living with the condition, Long Covid has had a significant impact on their lives. For some life is an everyday struggle. And it doesn’t just affect the patient. There is a ripple effect on family who see the lives of their loved ones so changed, altered and reduced to a shadow of what it was before.

Children are hit hard when their parents are living with Long Covid. They can suddenly find themselves going from childhood to having to grow up fast in the unexpected role as a young carer.

People have told me that they have felt ignored and not believed by both employers and, astonishingly, by some people in the healthcare system.  People with ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome had similar experiences, so you have to ask what lessons have been learned from the management of that condition in the context of rising numbers of Long Covid sufferers.

Some of the measures Scottish Liberal Democrats are calling for are specialist Long Covid clinics in every health board, countrywide access to Long Covid physiotherapy and multi-disciplinary rehab, and trained Long Covid community nurses to offer in-home support.

Meanwhile, the roll-out of the next phase of the vaccination programme appears to be going well in delivering boosters before the worst of the winter hits.

I am grateful to all those on the frontline who are putting ‘jabs in arms’, and also those working in Test and Protect to help reduce the spread of Covid in the community.

The annual fishing negotiations are underway.  In a debate in parliament last week, and again at a Rural Affairs committee evidence session, I was able to highlight the disparity between the scientific assessments of fish stocks - particularly cod - and the reality on the fishing grounds.

Shetland fishermen tell me they are seeing abundant cod on the fishing grounds but some vessels face financial difficulties if the quota is cut again. There are genuine concerns that limits on catches could mean vessels unnecessarily going bankrupt.

As it has been put to me - it is one thing to have fishing vessels going bankrupt if fish stocks disappear, but quite another to engineer a situation where they go bankrupt amid the largest fish stocks seen in the North Sea for at least two decades.

It will be interesting to see how the Coastal States talks develop, but perhaps next year consideration might be given to holding at least one round of talks in Shetland.

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