Can You Access MS Specialist Care?

My email had a Google alert with a headline I just had to open – it proclaimed “Some patients with multiple sclerosis not engaging with specialist services.” Of course I immediately though, duh! Of  course there is a large number of people with multiple sclerosis who don’t get the services that might be useful to them.

I can think of a number of factors that might make this disconnect with services happen. Whatever the reason, I know there are people with multiple sclerosis not seeking specialist services but I took the bait of the headline and opened the story to read more anyway. The story turned out to be based on a press release from the UK and was a survey sponsored by one of the largest MS drug companies, Biogen.

They surveyed 100 neurologists and MS nurses in the UK, and 93% of the respondents said they believe there are people with MS who don’t see specialist in the UK. I had to read this a couple times not because of this 93% figure but  because it makes me wonder about the 7% of MS providers in the UK who believe they are reaching 100% of the MS population or are they so out of touch they believe not everyone with MS needs to be treated by a specialist? It’s a question I will probably never get answered.

The campaign title 1MSg urges people living with MS to take control and make the choice to see an MS specialists.  Knowing what I do about the National Health System (NHS) in the UK, I believe they have over simplified this process but that’s a discussion best saved for another time. We have a number of readers for MultipleSclerosis.net who come from the UK and I would love to hear more about your experiences getting access to specialist care, particularly if you are among those mentioned in this survey as not getting the care you should.

Here in the United States I can think of a number of reasons why people don’t have MS specialists taking care of them. First, there just aren’t enough MS specialists to go around – unfortunately neurology doesn’t seem to attract new doctors compared to fields such as plastic surgery or orthopedics (two of the top choices of practices for new doctors). Insurance or rather the lack of it can be another restricting factor – it can be costly to see a specialist and some people just can’t afford this care. Then there are many people with MS who once they are diagnosed and told there’s nothing that can be done for their disease just go away and never revisit an MS specialist – I know a number of people who fall into this category and deal with their MS symptoms with their primary care physician or not at all.

Do you see a neurologist regularly? How about any type of clinician who specializes in multiple sclerosis? If you don’t see a provider who specializes in MS you might be getting your care in other ways. I hope whatever your answer, you are getting the care you need and deserve and are not among the underserved.

Wishing you well,

Laura

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