Consultant talking to a patient in a hospital about the number of people living with MS in the UK

Number of people living with MS in UK increases

The number of people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the UK has increased by nearly 13 per cent according to a recent study, meaning even more vital support is needed to help those with the condition.

The latest UK MS prevalence figure, which estimates the number of people living with MS at any one time, is now estimated to be over 150,000*. The previous figure, based on data from 2019, was 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.

The new data, from the MS Society, also shows that all four UK nations have seen a rise in the number of people living with MS. There’s been a 15 per cent increase in England, 10 per cent in Scotland, 9 per cent in Northern Ireland and 8 per cent in Wales.

More than 7,100 people are diagnosed with MS each year, and around 135 people are told they have MS every week. Of these, 71 per cent of people with MS 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. The UK currently ranks 44 out of 45 European nations for the number of neurologists for each person with a neurological condition.

The MS Society is calling on local NHS leaders and political parties to take urgent action to commit to improving health and care services for people with MS. They are also calling for a neurological taskforce to be set up to push forward plans to build a sustainable health and care neurology workforce, and everyone with MS to be able to access timely and effective diagnosis, treatment and support to manage their symptoms.

‘Whilst reports that the prevalence of MS in the UK is increasing may seem alarming, contributing factors such as better diagnosis and people living longer mean that there are some positives to be taken from this data,’ says MS-UK’s CEO Amy Woolf.

‘However, there is still not enough support for the MS community, and with more people being diagnosed each year, demand will continue to increase.

‘As a small charity, we will continue to support the MS Society and other MS charities wherever we can, in their efforts to influence change and press for better services for people affected by MS.’

* ‘MS Society Multiple Sclerosis Incidence, and Prevalence in the UK’. 2024. The Health Improvement Network (THIN) Database (A Cegedim Proprietary Database). This work uses data provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support.