Number of people living with MS in UK increases

A new study has discovered the number of people living with MS in the UK has increased by nearly 13% to over 150,000.

The latest figure estimates there are now over 150,000 living with MS in the UK. The previous figure, based on data from 2019, was more than 130,000.

This increase is thought to be because of a combination of factors. These include better diagnosis and people with MS living longer rather than an increase in the risk of developing MS.

The new data on MS in the UK also shows:

  • All four UK nations have seen a rise in the number of people living with MS
  • There’s been a 15% increase in England, 10% in Scotland, 9% in Northern Ireland and 8% in Wales
  • More than 7,100 people are diagnosed with MS each year in the UK
  • 71% of people with MS are women, meaning women are two and a half times more likely than men to be diagnosed with MS
  • People are most likely to be diagnosed in their 30s and 40s

More neurology services needed

The new figure adds to concerns about resources for NHS neurology services. In a 2019 survey by the Association of British Neurologists, the UK ranked 44 out of 45 European nations. That's for the number of neurologists for each person with a neurological condition.

We’re calling for the government to address shortages in neurologists and MS nurses.

Jane Hawkes, 48, from Gloucester, was diagnosed with relapsing MS at 24 when working a busy role as airline cabin crew. She’s better known as consumer affairs expert and media personality ‘Lady Janey’.

Jane says:

As the number of people living with MS in the UK increases, services need to increase. Right now, the NHS is under so much pressure and I want to be considerate by not bothering my MS team. That means I’m inclined to leave my symptoms for longer before seeking help, which can sometimes make problems worse. Facilities should be there to raise concerns earlier.
Jane Hawkes, living with MS

Emma Tallantyre, Consultant Neurologist at the University Hospital of Wales highlights how important this kind of information can be for doctors:

"As neurologists, it’s vital that we have up-to-date figures [...] to inform our service planning and our clinical research. So this is a good step forward.

In the future we would welcome even more data to help us understand who is living with MS. For example, we would benefit from more data on the ethnic diversity of people living with MS."

Calling for urgent action

We’re calling on local NHS leaders and political parties to take urgent action to commit to improving health and care services for people with MS.

We're also calling for:

  • a Neurological Taskforce to push forward plans for a sustainable health and care neurology workforce
  • everyone with MS to be able to access timely and effective diagnosis, treatment and support to manage their symptoms

Read more about the new numbers for MS in the UK

Find out how we're getting MS on the agenda for the General Election

The figures were published by the MS Society and established using data from The Health Improvement Network (THIN) Database (a Cegedim Property Database). This work uses data provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support.