The MS Trust and MS Society have launched an interactive map designed to help GPs speed up the search for specialist multiple sclerosis centres and specialist neurology teams throughout the UK.

The project was born after an audit of services on offer to MS patients on the National Health Service revealed that specialist care is not always available, even though guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence advise the referral to a neurologist specialising in the condition upon diagnosis.

GPs accessing can select one of 11 key areas on the map to view a list of all local MS centres with extensive disease experience and the ability to offer disease-modifying drugs such as Biogen Idec's Avonex (interferon beta-1a), as well as the names of all the specialists based at them.

Improving outcomes

“Like any illness, swift diagnosis and treatment often improves outcomes and quality of life issues for the patient,” commented Dr Neale Pimenta, a Dartford-based GP with an interest in MS. “However,” she said, “initial referral to a consultant without a background in MS management may often mean a delay in correct diagnosis and effective treatment for MS patients,” and added that the map will provide a shortcut to finding local specialist teams.

And Professor Derick Wade, clinical lead on the audit and Professor in Neurological Rehabilitation, also added his support for the project. “Referring a person with multiple sclerosis directly to a specialist means that the patient gets the right help at the right time, and also saves the NHS time and money,” he stressed.