November 9, 2003
Sarah-Kate Templeton, Health Editor
JK Rowling will join 200 multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers later this month to ask ministers to guarantee Scottish patients the same level of care as they would be entitled to in England.
The Department of Health in England will shortly publish guidelines promising MS sufferers access to a specialist nurse when they are diagnosed, an appointment with a neurologist a month after diagnosis to discuss their condition, access to specialist rehabilitation services and follow-up appointments with the neurologist.
Some Scottish MS patients have not seen a neurologist for 10 years, according to Mark Hazelwood, director of MS Society Scotland. They have to make do with appointments with a general practitioner and rehabilitation services.
Scotland has the highest prevalence of MS in the world yet the standards of care vary widely with grossly inadequate or non-existent services in some areas, according to the MS Society.
Despite years of lobbying for a national standard of care for sufferers, the MS Society says there has been no progress in Scotland. National Institute for Clinical Excellent guidelines, about to be published, will only apply to England and Wales.
Hazelwood added: “Three years ago a Scottish Needs Assessment Programme report highlighted that the service of MS sufferers was unacceptable. There has not been a framework to bring about improvements.
“We have asked for the NHS in Scotland to set national standards and I have drawn Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm’s attention to the fact national standards for MS are about to be introduced south of the Border.
“These standards would give patients some certainty about what they can expect from the health service.
“There is a big problem at the moment about access to neurologists. The waiting time for a routine neurological appointment can be more than a year. After patients have been diagnosed they are just left to get on with it.
“Some Scottish patients never see a neurologist. One patient I spoke to hadn’t seen a neurologist for 10 years.”
Harry Potter author Joanne Kathleen Rowling is patron of MS Society Scotland. Her mother died of the disease in 1990 at the age of 45.
A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said: “We have no plans to introduce such a national framework in Scotland. Our preferred approach would be to set up managed clinical networks as a way of linking services and all the points in which patient care is delivered.
“We have provided funding for NHS Forth Valley to set up a managed clinical
network and there is the potential for this to expand to other areas of
Copyright © 2003, Newsquest (Sunday Herald) Limited