Billy Thompson, who suffers with long Covid (Image: DAILY RECORD)
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A long Covid sufferer who spent five months in hospital and was put in a coma after his lung collapsed is pleading with the Scottish government to do something to help him.
Billy Thomson almost died after catching coronavirus last March while being treated in Glasgow Royal hospital.
He lost five stone during his hospital battle and 16 months on he is still in agony with constant bone pain, insomnia, fatigue, tiredness and possible PTSD.
But the 60-year-old, from Cambuslang, Glasgow, is unable to get a face-to-face GP appointment, the Daily Record reports.
He says the government needs to do more to help those in the country who are suffering from symptoms months after they contracted the virus.
In England there are 60 clinics and a further 20 planned but Nicola Sturgeon's government says it is waiting to learn from other countries.
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Billy in hospital on his birthday
Mr Thomson said: “My GP says all they can do is up my pain relief but I don’t like taking lots of tablets. It infuriates me that you can’t get a face-to-face appointment these days – surely they need to see you to assess you properly?
“The doctor actually asked me what I thought he should do and I thought, ‘It’s like the blind leading the blind here.’ That’s when it hit me that nobody actually knows what they’re dealing with.”
Furious opposition MSPs have said it’s not good enough for the Government to claim they need to learn more when other countries are already opening clinics for those affected.
Scottish Labour’s health and social care minister Jackie Baillie, who confronted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week in Parliament after our story on the 87,000 Scots suffering, said: “It is unacceptable for the First Minister to say the reason there are no plans to open Long Covid clinics is because we are awaiting research to find out more about the condition.
“NHS England has 60 clinics up and running already, with a further 20 planned, and is managing to offer dedicated specialist care to Long Covid patients while also learning as it goes.
Billy with his wife on holiday before he was struck down by coronavirus
“Yes, this is a condition we need to learn more about but we could be offering help at the same time as we are learning from what they are doing south of the border as well as from studies. Instead, the Government is just parking people in pain without providing appropriate support.”
Support worker Billy was recovering from an operation in hospital when he caught Covid and his lungs collapsed.
The dad-of-two was immediately transferred to intensive care, where he was fully ventilated and put into an induced coma.
Billy said: “I don’t really remember much about it as I was so ill and so out of it but my wife Linda later told me the hospital had called her to tell her and the rest of the family to prepare themselves for the worst. So things were probably about as bad as they could get at that point.
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“I had actually been in hospital since December 2019 with problems with my stomach so I know for a fact I picked the virus up in there. Back then, folk were just starting to hear about coronavirus but nothing much was known about it. I was told later I was one of the first people to actually get it in Scotland.”
Billy was in a coma for a week and, when he woke up, he was confused and began hallucinating.
He said:“There were lots of medical staff going about in hazmat suits – it was some sight to behold and I couldn’t work out what was real and what wasn’t.”
Billy turned 60 while he was in the ward and, although it wasn’t the celebration he had hoped, the nursing staff helped keep his spirits up.
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He was discharged from hospital in May last year almost 5st lighter and has experienced a variety of Long Covid symptoms since.
He said: “I have horrendous bone pain in my legs, back and all my joints – it’s agony. I also have insomnia, fatigue, tiredness and I think I have a bit of PTSD too as I can get very emotional sometimes and burst out crying, which isn’t like me.
“I get breathless when I am talking to folk and have to keep pausing to take a gasp. I also have awful brain fog.
“I used to be a planner scheduler in a steel plant. Now I’m lucky if I can even plan my own breakfast. I’m usually an avid reader but I’m finding I can’t even do that as I can’t concentrate for long.
“I also used to go to the gym every morning as I’m someone who has always liked to keep fit but I don’t have the energy to do that either, which gets me down.
“We need to be opening specialist clinics up now across Scotland for Long Covid sufferers so they can access help as and when they need it.”
Last year the Government promised they would start to open clinics and take the pressure off GPs.
Baillie said: “In July, October and December 2020 I asked the Cabinet Secretary for Health about Long Covid clinics. At the time I was told that guidelines would be published at the end of that year and specialist clinics would be set up. Yet six months on, there are still no plans.
“Long Covid is now affecting some 87,000 people in Scotland. They are desperate and those with the means are turning to the private sector for care, which just exacerbates inequality.
“The Scottish Government needs to start opening specialist clinics so people can access the help they need.
“This would also alleviate pressure on our GPs, who simply do not have the appropriate resources in place.”
Tory MSP and former GP Sandesh Gulhane said the Scottish Government should use the model England have to get the clinics off the ground.
He said: “Put new funding into Covid clinics around Scotland that will see a team of GPs, hospital doctors, specialist nurses, physios, councillors, pain management and psychology work together to give patients the hope that has been missing since they contracted Covid.
“England has clinics and we can use the best models adapted for Scotland to quickly establish these clinics.
“The Government need to take Long Covid seriously and take action that does not pile more work on our overstretched and overworked GPs.”