Number of people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Northern Ireland increases

Rodney Ashe from Belfast has been living with MS for 19 years. He said he hasn't seen his neurologist for four yearsRodney Ashe from Belfast has been living with MS for 19 years. He said he hasn't seen his neurologist for four years
Rodney Ashe from Belfast has been living with MS for 19 years. He said he hasn't seen his neurologist for four years
A new study has discovered the number of people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Northern Ireland has increased by nine per cent .

The number of people living with MS at any one time, is now 5,300 people, according to the latest UK MS prevalence figure for NI – an increase of 500 people from the previous data in 2019.

Across the UK, the prevalence figure has risen by nearly 13 per cent to over 150,000 people, compared to a previous figure of more than 130,000. The sharp rise is thought to be due to a combination of factors, including better diagnosis and people with MS living longer, rather than an increase in the risk of developing MS.  

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Around 219 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with MS each year. Some 72 per cent of people with MS in NI are women, meaning women are 2.5 times more likely than men to be diagnosed with MS . People are most likely to be diagnosed in their 30s and 40s. 

Experts say the new figure raises further concerns over how under resourced NHS neurology services are and underlines the importance of the upcoming Department of Health Review of Neurology Services to deliver changes for people with MS.

Rodney Ashe is from Belfast and has been living with MS for 19 years. His symptoms include fatigue and problems with memory, bladder, balance and walking.

He said: “I haven’t actually seen my neurologist for four years. When I have an appointment I see someone else or a nurse and they just ask how I’ve been, nothing about treatment.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“These new figures make me feel worried for the future and for other people with MS. I’ve been on the same treatment for four or five years now. My last MRI scan showed some changes. I’d like to know what’s happening with them and what the next step is. But at my appointments there’s nothing about treatment. I just feel like a number sometimes.”

Stewart Finn, MS Society director for Northern Ireland, said neurology services in Northern Ireland are “hugely under-resourced”.

“The consultants and nurses do a fantastic job but can only do so much. It means too many people are struggling to access the treatment and care they desperately need.”

“Health service leaders and political parties must take action to improve health and care services for people with MS. A review of neurology services started in 2018 - it’s vital the Department of Health publish it.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dr Gavin McDonnell is a consultant neurologist at the Belfast Trust added: “These numbers and the change identified are in line with previous data. NI continues to have one of the highest prevalence rates for MS in the world. We do however have to be cautious about the data since NI is uniquely challenged in the UK in terms of access to neurology services. Patients therefore face considerable delays in diagnosis, potentially leading to an underestimate. Having a comprehensive MS Registry for N Ireland and accessible services for both clinical opinions and diagnosis are vital for accurate data and efficient and responsive healthcare.”

To find out more about the MS in the UK visit

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.