MS and the NHS

6 November 2020

2020 has been far from a normal year. In his latest blog for the MS Trust, Martin Baum reflects on the impact lockdown has had on MS care across the country.

Lockdown has thrown a lot of MS spanners in the works for MSers waiting on appointments for doctors, neurologists, physios, and other specialists.  None of us are special (no matter how much our mothers would tell us we are) but given the circumstances, the way I see it, there has been a real shift in the quality of services during this sustained period of isolation.  And not in a good way.

I can scarcely believe that it has been just over a year since moving a hundred miles from Dorset back to London, or close to it.  Naturally, relocation meant waiting on appointments to be introduced to new NHS doctors, neurologists and physios.  Above all, I had to be prepared to exercise patience while it happened.

Moving had taken its toll on my relationship with MS:  Headaches had become sharper, balance more confused, messages from the brain to my legs questionable.   Then came lockdown and with it any appointments that had been made prior were postponed. 

Instead of complaining we all got on with banging our pots and pans.  There were people, after all, a lot worse off than ourselves who needed the NHS far more than I did.  But then light at the end of the tunnel.  I saw a dentist and a chiropodist.  I even got selected by the NHS for a coronavirus swab test which was posted to, and collected from me, at my earliest convenience. Negative, I am pleased to say.

Amidst the good news, and while still thinking of others, what I really wanted was to see a neurologist.  

Instead, though, despite my needs I had to make do with a telephone consultation.  The reality is because I am a sixty-year-old MSer I am categorised as vulnerable.  Meaning I should stay safe by not being unnecessarily exposed to coronavirus by putting myself out there in a consulting room.

Nevertheless, soon after an appointment came through for a traditional face to face consultation.  For next April.  Also because of my so-called ‘vulnerable’ status, I have since learned my 2021 appointment can still be cancelled due to Covid-related circumstances, leaving me to continue to navigate a contactless system of examinational care.   

It is said because of coronavirus that living in the now with all its medical restrictions is the new normal.  Yet by no stretch of the imagination can anything today be countered as such. 

But if this is going to be ‘normal’, there is no way that MSers can receive the care they need virtually.  Even if my next consultation is with a neurologist in a hazmat suit, I’ll take it because getting an appointment to see someone face to face has to be more specific than this year, next year, sometime, never.