An ambitious project has been launched by the UK’s MS Trust with the most welcome aim of making sure that everyone affected by multiple sclerosis can access the best possible care.
MS care is changing. As already featured in a previous blog (click here), a new consensus on treatment for people with relapsing remitting form of the illness recommends that people receive treatment with a disease modifying therapy (DMT) as soon as possible after diagnosis. It also recommends that treatment should be closely monitored, and, if there are still signs of disease activity, a switch to a different, more effective treatment should be considered.
This new approach to treatment is the latest step in 20 years of progress in treating people with relapsing remitting MS, which has seen new drugs become available and specialist MS services developed. However, the MS Trust believes that implementing the new approach is likely to be extremely challenging. It says:
From our work with MS specialist teams we know that MS nurses, neurologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other health professionals do a brilliant job and are hugely valued by people with MS. However, we also know that many specialist nurses, for example, have to manage far larger caseloads than is ideal or sustainable.
The new recommendations for MS treatment are likely to put even more pressure on MS specialist services. Somehow already stretched services will have to find more time to administer and monitor drug treatment for more people.
The organisation also wants to ensure that everyone has fair and equal access to treatment. It is right to have concerns because the availability of treatments through different local health authorities has become known as the ‘postcode lottery’ – and then there are people with other types of MS:
We also know that around half of the people living with MS in the UK – around 50,000 people – have progressive forms of MS, and there are no DMTs currently licensed for progressive MS. If specialist services are increasingly focused on drug treatments, will these people miss out on vital care? We know that people with progressive forms of MS have complex needs and really benefit from access to multidisciplinary MS teams comprising physiotherapists, occupational therapists and others. How do we make sure that they can access these services when they need them?
These concerns about the future of MS care, and making sure that everyone affected by MS has equitable access to MS specialists, are the reasons behind our MS Forward View project.
It all looks to be thought-out and very well planned. It includes:
- Working with MS specialists, NHS managers and commissioners, and people with MS, to find ways to make the best use of resources and skills to make sure specialist services work for everyone.
- Looking at how MS services currently work, what mix of professionals works best at delivering care for people with MS, and how it might measure what equitable care looks like in practice.
- At the end of the project, producing an action plan for improving access to MS care which it hopes will be adopted by services across the UK, and result in a better deal for everyone affected by MS.