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Increase in Scots living with MS

This news post is over 2 years old

More than 15,000 people are now living with the condition, research has shown

There has been a steep rise in people in Scotland living with multiple sclerosis (MS), new research has shown.

More than 15,000 people are living with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Scotland – over 35% more than previously thought – a new research estimate based on Public Health England data, published today by the MS Society shows.

The MS prevalence figure, which estimates the number of people believed to be living with the condition at any one time, has risen from 11,000.

The new figure means one in every 300 people in Scotland is living with MS, with about 13 people diagnosed every week on average, and many struggling to get the help and support they need.

MS damages the body’s nerves and makes it harder for people to do everyday things, like walk, talk, eat and think. It can be relentless, painful and disabling.

Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said: “These new figures confirm what we already suspected - that there are many more people living with MS in Scotland than previously thought.

“While the NHS is getting better at diagnosing and recording cases of MS, unfortunately in many important ways society is getting worse at supporting people with the condition. Compared to just a few years ago, fewer people with MS receive social care support and key welfare payments – and we hear far too many stories of people struggling to stay in work without the adjustments they need.

“The Scottish Government’s neurological care and support framework provides an opportunity to create an expanded and sustainable social care system in this country and we will continue to push to ensure that it leads to real change for people with MS. We now know that Scotland has a higher rate of MS than anywhere in the world and that underlines the need for action on care and support to guarantee that people who are diagnosed with the condition are able to access the help they need.

“MS Society Scotland is committed to supporting people with MS and to finding effective treatments for everyone with the condition, and ultimately stopping MS.”

The new figures, which have been scrutinised by academics and leading MS clinicians, do not mean the risk of developing MS has increased. Instead, the rise is likely to be due to a number of factors, including an ageing MS population and better diagnostic methods, as well as improved recording of medical data.

Public Health England (PHE) generated the new estimated figures with the MS Society. Using 2018 patient information taken from a GP database - The Health Improvement Network (THIN) - PHE applied the number of people identified as having MS to the population as a whole in England. The MS Society replicated the research methodology to establish UK-wide figures.

The latest results estimate that the number of people with MS in the UK as a whole has increased, with a rise to 130,000 from 110,000.

The other UK nations have seen similar increases as Scotland with Northern Ireland seeing an increase to 4,500 up from 3,200, Wales an increase to 5,500 up from 4,200 and England to 105,000 up from 90,500.

Kimberley McVeigh, 32, from Johnstone is a teacher and was diagnosed with relapsing MS in April 2018.

She said: “Thinking back, before being diagnosed with MS, I used to feel ill quite often but was always a bit embarrassed about taking time to go into the doctors – putting it down to teacher’s flu, viruses and things like that.

“Then one day I woke up and was unable to feel my right leg. I continued to put it down to other little things but was finally convinced to go to the doctor after a week by friends and family.

“A year later, after a series of appointments and MRI scans I finally got the news from the doctor who said: ‘You’ve got MS, it’s incurable and would potentially continue to get worse.’ And that was that.

“It’s incredibly daunting, I wasn’t given much information at first and I don’t think people tend to know much about MS or, if they do, just the scarier parts of it.

“It took a few months for me to come to terms with my diagnosis. It’s not something you ever think about or consider you might have and there’s a sense that I didn’t want to admit that I had the condition. Now I’m able to accept it more and know it doesn’t stop me from achieving or living my life to the fullest potential.

“It can be incredibly hard to deal with, I’m lucky in that I have an amazing support network of family and friends but for people who aren’t in that position it must be a lot more difficult.

“I think it’s important that we keep raising awareness about MS in Scotland particularly given the high rate of the condition. Research has come on massively in recent years and the more people know the better.

“That’s something I think is incredibly important, making sure people know how the condition can affect you and how varied that can be – that’s something that organisations like the MS Society are incredibly helpful for.”



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