Multiple Sclerosis Society: Concern at shortage of MS nurses in Wales

Brain of an MS patient There are around 4,000 people with MS, an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system

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A charity says it is concerned about a shortage of specialist nurses for multiple sclerosis sufferers in Wales.

MS Society Cymru said there are 13 specialist nurses in Wales - but only one of those is in north Wales and there are none in Powys.

It comes as the first pill for the neurological condition was recommended for UK use by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The Welsh Government said it is working to improve MS services.

MS Society Cymru said there are around 4,000 people in Wales with MS, which is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system.

But there is just one specialist multiple sclerosis (MS) nurse per 308 sufferers, according to MS Society Cymru.

'Postcode lottery'

Judy Rees, who is director of the charity, said she was "concerned" about a "postcode lottery" for provision.

"We're particularly short of MS specialist nurses in some parts of the country," she said.

"For example in north Wales we only have one where the population suggests we would need two or three and in Powys we don't have any dedicated MS specialist nurses.

Start Quote

They're the people really who provide the gateway for people with MS and the few people who really understand what people with MS are going through”

End Quote Judy Rees

"And they're the people really who provide the gateway for people with MS and the few people who really understand what people with MS are going through."

She said the charity would also be pushing for all health boards in Wales to use the newly recommended drug Fingolimod, which is the first daily pill for people with MS.

It would be of use to some but not all sufferers and would offer an alternative to the current treatments of injections and hospital infusions.

Ms Rees said it was a "major step forward" for people with MS" and would reduce the severity of relapses or attacks of the condition and the time between them.

She said the pill costs £20,000 per person per year - but that it would be "£20,000 very well spent for somebody with MS".

"[The cost] actually compares very well with other treatments and of course it's the savings you get for people who would otherwise be admitted to hospital," she added.

"And, of course, the quality of life is vastly improved."

Improving services

MS is one of the most common neurological conditions affecting young adults and around 100,000 people in the UK have it.

It can occur at any age but is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 - and women are almost twice as likely to develop MS as men

Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS) is the most common form, affecting 80% of people.

The new pill is more than twice as effective at reducing relapses as a standard interferon injection for people with RRMS.

A Welsh Government spokesman said work was under way to improve services for people with neurological conditions.

"Specialist nurses form an integral and important part of health services," he added.

"It is for individual health boards to ensure they have the correct skill mix and staff levels to support people who suffer with multiple sclerosis."

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