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Multiple sclerosis sufferers getting 'postcode lottery' treatment

Posted Jan 14 2009 8:24pm

By Daily Mail Reporter - in the UK
Last updated at 11:16 PM on 08th July 2008


Multiple sclerosis sufferers are getting poor NHS care five years after a drive to improve treatment, doctors claim.

A postcode lottery means long delays for diagnosis, poor access to rehabilitation and lack of basic care, an audit of services found.

Half of patients with suspected MS wait almost six months to have the diagnosis confirmed, according to a report by the Royal College of Physicians and the MS Trust charity.

It also states that only one in three MS patients is getting help with symptoms that could prevent them becoming disabled.

There are 85,000 sufferers of MS, where the body's immune system attacks itself, in the UK.

It is diagnosed in 50 people in their 20s and 30s each week.

Symptoms range from mild muscle weakness and visual disability to severe deterioration.

Guidelines issued to the NHS in 2003 were designed to eliminate differences across the country but an assessment carried out in hospital and primary care trusts found few improvements.

'It is the inadequacy of symptom management which causes distress, and may worsen disability,' the report said.

Although access to specialist neurological services has improved, the report concluded there were still long delays from GP referral to diagnosis, with 50 per cent of patients waiting longer than 20 weeks.

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said service quality is still low despite guidelines.

He added: 'After five years we are no nearer to commissioning the full range of services that MS patients need and deserve.'

Christine Jones, chief executive of the MS Trust, said MS sufferers getting necessary care is 'a matter of geographical accident'.

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