Figures reveal rise in number of Scots living with MS

The number of people in Scotland living with multiple sclerosis is more than 35 per cent higher than was previously believed.

The MS prevalence figure, which measures the number of people with the condition has risen to 15,000 from 11,000, according to new research based on Public Health England data – published by the MS Society.

This 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.

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Figures reveal steep rise in numbers of Scots living with MS picture: supplied
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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 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.”

Kimberley McVeigh, 32, was diagnosed with relapsing MS in April 2018 picture: supplied

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.

Ms Simpkins added: “The Scottish Government’s neurological care and support framework provides an opportunity to create an expanded and sustainable social care system 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 diagnosed with the condition are able to access the help they need. MS Society Scotland is committed to supporting people and to finding effective treatments, and ultimately stopping MS.”

Teacher speaks of living with the condition

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

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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 simply said: ‘You’ve got MS, it’s incurable and would potentially continue to get worse.’

“And that was that.

'It's incredibly daunting'

“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.

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“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.”

Ms McVeigh added: “It can be incredibly hard to deal with.

'Amazing support'

“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.”

She added: “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.”