Number of Scots diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 'highest in 12 years'

Almost 600 Scots were diagnosed with the condition in 2021, figures from Public Health Scotland show.

Public Health Scotland: New cases of multiple sclerosis ‘highest in 12 years’ iStock

Almost 600 Scots were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2021, the “highest incidence of new cases” in at least 12 years.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and nerves. Caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the brain and nerves, MS is incurable – but medications and other treatments can help ease symptoms.

The annual MS Register report from Public Health Scotland (PHS) showed that 578 new patients were diagnosed with MS last year.

It also showed that the total number of patients over its 12-year period had reached 5,878.

High levels of Covid-19 vaccination among MS patients were recorded, with 76.4% having received their third dose or booster.

There was also an increase in the proportion of newly diagnosed patients receiving contact with a MS specialist nurse within ten working days – from 85.4% in 2020 to 88.2% in 2021.

National clinical director Jason Leitch said: “Scotland has one of the highest incidences of MS in the world and the MS Register is an invaluable source of data on the epidemiology of this condition and access to care.

“Last year saw 578 new patients diagnosed with MS added to the MS Register; the highest incidence recorded since the MS Register began collecting data 12 years ago.

“In reflecting upon this year’s report, I want to recognise MS specialist nurses’ commitment to maintaining high levels of patient contact and support during the pandemic.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Despite the immense challenges during the pandemic, the proportion of newly-diagnosed people receiving contact with a MS specialist nurse within ten working days of diagnosis increased from 85.4% in 2020 to 88.2% in 2021.

“This progress is thanks to the hard work of specialist nurses who have sustained this speed of contact in the context of both Covid-19 and an increased number of MS diagnoses to provide invaluable support to people living with MS across the country.”

“We have sustained our efforts during the pandemic to deliver the 17 commitments of the Neurological Care and Support Framework 2020-25 Framework, investing £2.2m so far.

“Through the Framework we have invested over £300,000 to date in projects specifically to improve the health and wellbeing of people with MS in Scotland.”