Instead of ‘Living with COVID’, we need to be thinking about ‘Living well with COVID’.

Written by: Sara Redmond, Chief Officer, the ALLIANCE

Published: 31/03/2022

Long Covid

Sara Redmond discusses what the easing of COVID restrictions means for disabled people and people living with long term conditions.

The announcement that many of Scotland’s COVID-19 restrictions are lifting will have been welcomed by many. However, as we adjust to ‘Living with COVID’, our approach cannot leave people behind. For many disabled people, people living with long term conditions, and unpaid carers, the prospect of a life without restrictions is a terrifying vision of a life without protections. For people who were previously advised to shield due to the risk to their lives, the shadow does not feel lifted. People living with Long Covid feel frustration and fear that they will not return to the life they had before. And many more feel that the lessons from the pandemic have not been learned and will be repeated.

Instead of ‘Living with COVID’, we need to be thinking about ‘Living well with COVID’.

‘Living well with COVID’ would mean more support for disabled people, people living with long term conditions, and unpaid carers. At the height of the pandemic, 4061 people in Scotland were advised to shield by the Chief Medical Officer – although many people who did not receive a shielding letter also chose to shield. Despite the official end of shielding, many people are continuing to protect themselves from social contact, keeping away from the potential of infection. They are far from reassured that it is safe to remove protections or that the government is considering them when making decisions. We need to listen to those with lived experience, and design support and permanent protections to allow them to live well again.

‘Living well with COVID’ should also mean improving support for people with Long Covid. Long Covid is a new long term condition which – so far – has no cure, and has left people with a wide variety of symptoms, including breathlessness, brain fog and heart problems. People living with Long Covid have faced disbelief from medical professionals, the loss of employment, and barriers to accessing state support services. It is imperative that we adopt a whole system, person centred approach, which prioritises peoples’ experience and the vital work of the third sector. It also means making sure that employers’ practices, social security, and social care systems are adequate and responsive to Long Covid.

‘Living well with COVID’ would mean learning lessons from the pandemic. The independent inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic is a welcome step, and a number of ALLIANCE members’ priorities are reflected in its remit, including emergency planning, the use of Do Not Resuscitate Orders, and care homes. However, it is important that an intersectional, equalities and human rights based approach is taken to the inquiry, and to designing services and processes to make sure that people’s rights are at the heart of future planning, not an optional extra to be discarded in a crisis.

The lessons from COVID-19 have been hard-earned, we cannot lose sight of them.  We must work hard to continue to keep people’s experiences at the centre.

First featured in the Scotsman

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