A major long Covid study is gathering data from patients in Scotland in order to forecast who might need treatment.
All adults in Scotland who tested positive for Covid, and a small number who were negative, will be sent a text message asking them to take part.
People will be encouraged to log their symptoms through an app.
Long Covid has more than two dozen common symptoms, though experts have said they are often unpredictable and affect patients in different ways.
The latest figures from the ONS estimate 79,000 people in Scotland are living with “self-reported” long Covid – an increase of 5,000 on September’s figures.
About 61,000 had experienced long Covid symptoms for more than 12 weeks and 31,000 for a year.
Research suggests that being fully vaccinated against Covid cuts the risk of an infection turning into long Covid.
‘Spot problems early’
It is hoped the study, led by the University of Glasgow, will help show how many people have long-term symptoms, the type of their condition and the impacts on their daily lives.
Prof Jill Pell, who leads the study, said: “Most people recover quickly and completely after infection with Covid-19, but some people have reported a wide variety of long-term problems.
“It is crucial that we find out how many people have long-term problems, and what those problems are, so that we can set up systems to spot problems early and deal with them effectively.”
More than 91,000 people have already participated in the study, however researchers said they want to hear from new people.
They will use NHS health records to identify people who tested positive for the virus and send them a text asking them to fill out a questionnaire on an app.
Questions will be asked about their health before and after Covid, and whether the virus has had any lasting effects on their lives.
These participants will be asked to answer the same questions at 12, 18 and 24 months after their initial positive test.
Some will also be asked to take part in one-to-one interviews to discuss the impact of their condition in more detail.
Participants who tested negative will be asked similar questions – and are described as “essential” to the study.
‘Shape and design’ treatment
Last month, a charity claimed “thousands” of people had not been referred to their long Covid support service because of “NHS bureaucracy”.
Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS) launched the service in February, but it said data sharing issues prevented them from getting in touch with patients.
Leading clinicians have encouraged people to take part in the new questionnaire as they believe it will help the NHS develop long Covid services and support.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said: “The results of this important study will help us further understand the different impacts of long Covid and I encourage anyone contacted to take part if they can. This will help us shape and design the best way to treat and support people who have been affected.
“We are focused on working with clinicians, specialist health care professionals and third sector organisations to ensure people receive the best possible treatment and care in a setting that is appropriate and as close to their home as possible.”