North Antrim SDLP Candidate Connor Duncan is backing the call for a shake-up of neurological health services in Northern Ireland to reduce lengthy waiting times for people with multiple sclerosis.
Mr Duncan attended the launch of the MS Society’s 2016 Manifesto at Stormont where he gave his support to the #EndTheWait Campaign to improve services for people living with MS.
He said, “Long waiting times are compounded by an uneven distribution of MS services across Northern Ireland. Getting to see an MS specialist and receiving treatment depends on where a person lives and the type of MS they have.
“Creating an MS Network would provide better access to specialists across Northern Ireland by increasing the number of people with MS seeing a specialist neurologist, providing more MS nurses and improving access to services for people with MS such as neuro-physiotherapy and continence management.
“The costs of setting up the network would be offset by a reduction in payments to the private sector for delivering extra outpatient appointments every year.”
Derek McCambley who was diagnosed with MS in 2005 said, “I last saw my Neurologist some 21 months ago which makes a complete mockery of national guidelines which says that everyone with MS should have an annual review with their Consultant.
“I feel somewhat cast adrift from MS Services and rather isolated. I don’t know how far my MS has progressed and it worries me that I may have missed out on more suitable treatment and support which may have enhanced my condition.”
Tom Mallon, Acting Head of the MS Society Northern Ireland said, “People with MS are waiting far too long for a diagnosis and to be able to start treatment. Added to that, an unacceptable postcode lottery for getting an appointment to see a consultant or MS nurse. That’s why we’re urging candidates to support an MS Network for Northern Ireland so that people with MS can receive the right treatment and support they so desperately need, at the right time.”
Dr Gavin McDonnell Consultant Neurologist for the Belfast and Northern Trusts said, “Waiting times for MS patients in Northern Ireland are really dreadful. There’s a major problem for MS patients accessing neurology for a first appointment despite mounting evidence which shows that earlier diagnosis leads to better outcomes. There’s also a huge backlog of existing patients waiting to be seen by us which is getting longer and longer. Setting up an MS Network with more clinics, with multidisciplinary input, would go a long way to help meet this huge demand and so enhancing patient care and safety.”