Wales politics

Multiple sclerosis: Charity warns of 'postcode lottery' in services

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Media captionAround 4,000 people in Wales have MS, an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system

Services for people in Wales with multiple sclerosis (MS) are a "postcode lottery", a leading charity has warned.

The MS Society Cymru says less than 60% of people in mid and west Wales can access a neurologist when needed.

North Wales was better served with at least 90% of people having access, and at least 70% in south east Wales.

The charity urged ministers to ensure everyone with MS had the care and support needed. The Welsh government said progress was being made.

The report, being launched in the Welsh assembly on Tuesday, is based on the largest ever survey of people with MS in Wales.

Image caption Ieuan Evans has only seen a neurologist once in the last 20 years

It is a neurological condition which can cause fatigue, vision problems and difficulties with walking for those who have it.

As well as the varying pattern of services available, the study also found that just a third of people who said they needed support finding or keeping a job could get the help they needed and that there were "far longer" waiting lists for wheelchairs in north Wales than south Wales.

A father and son from different parts of the country have highlighted the varying levels of support available.

Ieuan Evans, 70, from Cardigan, was diagnosed with MS 20 years ago.

He has seen a neurologist just once in that time and his nearest MS nurse is based in Morriston Hospital, Swansea, more than 50 miles away.

He said: "Accessing specialists is frustrating for people with MS in my part of Wales - as I don't drive it is very difficult.

"My son lives in Cardiff where services are far easier to access.

Image caption Aled Evans receives better support for MS than his father Ieuan

"Wherever you live in Wales you should have the same treatment."

Mr Evans' son Aled has lived with MS for thirteen years and finds it upsetting that he receives so much more care than his father.

"I see a neurologist every six months, have access to disease modifying treatment drugs and easy access to my MS nurse, who I can see in 15 minutes if I need to," he said.

"My dad is 70, my mum is 68 and looking after him.

"There has been talk that they might have to move to Cardiff for treatment."

'Falling behind'

The report also warns that because there are both more people with MS in Wales unemployed and more of them receiving disability living allowance (DLA), Wales would be "disproportionately hit" by UK government changes to welfare benefits.

Joseph Carter, acting director of MS Society Cymru, said the findings "worryingly suggest that not only is Wales falling behind the rest of the UK on services for people with MS but there is a stark difference between rural areas and areas along the M4 corridor".

"People with MS are facing a lottery when it comes to accessing the care and support they need to manage their condition and this must change," he added.

The charity is calling for personalised treatment, care and support plans for everyone with MS including two comprehensive reviews each year.

A Welsh government spokesperson said Health Minister Mark Drakeford would consider the report and respond to the society.

"Progress is continuing to be made to improve services based on the Adult Neurosciences review," the spokesperson added.

"We recognise more can be done and the minister for health and social services has given his commitment to developing a delivery plan for neurological conditions."

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