Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 15:39 GMT
A national strategy needs to be drawn up in Scotland to raise standards of care for its 10,400 multiple sclerosis sufferers, according to a report.
The Scottish Needs Assessment Programme said there should be a significant increase in funding.
Professor Ian Bone, one of the report's authors said there needed to be a strategy at national and health board level to improve services.
"This report came about through a general appreciation that there is a lack of services for patients with MS," he said.
"MS involves many specialists and many disciplines in teams trying to provide the quality of care people need."
But Professor Bone said his experience of diagnosing MS sufferers at the department of neurology in Glasgow's Southern General showed the problems patients faced.
"If a patient is referred to me today they will get an appointment in August next year.
"If I referred them for a MRI scan, they will get that in December next year. That is an unbelievably bad service."
Standards varied across Scotland with waiting times shorter in some areas.
But Professor Bone said: "Service planners should address the funding issues of MS services with the knowledge that current care is substantially sub-optimal, inadequately resourced and unacceptably fragmented."
Scotland has what is thought to be the world's highest incidence of the disease but Professor Bone said it had some of the poorest funding in Europe.
The report showed twice as many women as men suffer MS. At any one time nearly half of those diagnosed suffered "moderate" impairment while 28% had "severe" impairment.
Ann Lees, health economist with Argyll and Clyde Health Board, who helped prepare the report, said the best estimate was that at least £80m was currently spent by the NHS on people with MS.
An ideal service would cost an extra £20m.
The report steers clear of controversy over "postcode subscription" of beta interferon, a drug which could benefit up to 1,500 MS sufferers in Scotland.
The report has been welcomed by the MS Society which said it should form a basis for improving the service given to the people suffering from the disease.
"For far too long its complexity and unpredictability have allowed the
health service to relegate MS to Cinderella status," said Scottish director