Long Covid may have reduced Scotland’s GDP by £120m and cost 11,000 jobs

19 Apr 2024

A new report The Economic Impact of Long Covid in the UK by Cambridge Econometrics estimates that across the UK, Long Covid “may have macroeconomic costs of some £1.5bn of GDP each year, with the impacts increasing if future prevalence were to rise. The main driver of this result is the way in which Long Covid reduces people’s ability to work, leading to lower household incomes and lower economic growth overall. Lower employment of around 138,000 by 2030 follows as a consequence.”

Adjusted for Scotland’s share of the UK population, this suggests a yearly economic impact of £120m and a cost of 11,000 jobs by 2030.

Despite announcing a £10m Long Covid support fund, the Scottish Government spent less than £670,000 on supporting Long Covid patients in financial year 2022/23.

In a letter to the Convener of the Covid-19 Recovery Committee dated March 2023, Humza Yousaf tried to explain the reasons for this underspend, citing “delays in recruiting to posts identified to implement the pathways of care for long Covid.”

However, several NHS boards warned the Scottish Government at least a year before that letter was sent, in their funding applications from March 2022, that the non-recurring nature of the funding would result in the creation of temporary posts, which could pose problems with recruitment.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

“Far too many Scots know, first-hand, the devastating reality of living with Long Covid. Breathing difficulties, cognitive problems and crushing fatigue are just some of the many symptoms they face on a daily basis. Previously healthy young people are now forced to use wheelchairs and many have been unable to return to work.

“Despite repeatedly promising to help, Humza Yousaf has failed to properly invest in adequate treatment pathways for sufferers. We’re now seeing the economic impact of the Government’s inaction. What these figures show is that investing in support for those with Long Covid would also be good for our economy too.

“If even a fraction of those who are out of work or working reduced hours as a result of this condition could be helped into recovery, this investment would pay for it itself several times over.

“The Scottish Government were warned that it they didn’t commit to supporting health boards in the long term, then boards would find it challenging to fill temporary posts.

“This lacklustre approach is an insult to all those ordinary Scots, many of whom have been suffering for almost four years now.

“The Scottish Government must urgently change tack and work with health boards to ensure funding can be put to use to help all those in need.”

Additional Resources:

The report from Cambridge Econometrics can be found here.

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP recently revealed that a number of health boards spent none or hardly any of their Long Covid funding allocation in 2022/23:

• NHS Dumfries & Galloway, NHS Fife, NHS Forth Valley and NHS Shetland did not spend any of their Long Covid funding allocation.

• NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde spent just 2% of their Long Covid funding. This amounted to £12,992 out of a possible £595,000.

• NHS Grampian spent just 13% of their allocation, while NHS Lothian spent 17% and NHS Ayrshire & Arran spent 19%.

You can find a full spreadsheet detailing the Long Covid spend across each of Scotland’s health boards for the year 2022/23 here.

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