With more than 100,000 people across the UK diagnosed with MS, it is important that people with this condition have access to the best treatments available and are supported with the cost of living.
I fully appreciate the challenges that many people living with MS are facing with the rising cost of living at the moment. Depending on their specific circumstances, it is possible that people with MS will qualify for disability benefits. People in receipt of extra-cost disability benefits such as Personal Independence Payment ( https://www.gov.uk/pip/eligibility ) or Disability Living Allowance (https://www.gov.uk/dla-disability-living-allowance-benefit) should have received a one-off Disability Cost of Living Payment of £150 from 20 September 2022, to help with the extra costs disabled people are facing.
I welcome the Chancellor's announcement that a second Disability Cost of Living Payment of £150 will also be provided to 6 million people on qualifying disability benefits during summer 2023.The Government is also providing a £650 Cost of Living Payment to recipients of means-tested benefits to support people with low incomes with the rising cost of living. A further payment of up to £900 will be provided in three lump sums from summer 2023. More information about this can be found here: https://www.mimsdavies.org.uk/news/mims-davies-mp-welcomes-extended-cost-living-payments
Since 2015, £150.6 million has been spent on research into MS through the National Institute for Health Research and UK Research and Innovation. This funding has the potential to improve the quality of care and treatments available to support people living with MS.
Regarding Sativex, I know that it is licensed for certain uses in the UK as it has recognised benefits for people living with MS. However, the guidance from NICE states that it is not a cost-effective treatment for the NHS to routinely offer. I know that NICE update their guidance regularly, and it will be for them to discuss with the manufacturers of Sativex to find a model of funding appropriate to the NHS.
I welcome the decision of NICE to recommend Ocrelizumab for treating relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, and it is positive that Ocrelizumab has been recommended to treat primary progressive multiple sclerosis as well. A commercial deal reached between NHS England and the manufacturers of Ocrelizumab, Roche, improved the drug’s cost-effectiveness and paved the way for NICE to recommend its use for primary progressive MS.
As a minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, I can advise that people living with long term conditions such as multiple sclerosis may be eligible for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The PIP is designed to offer claimants the correct level of care for their needs which focuses on an individual’s ability to carry out key everyday activities, and claims are reviewed so those living with long-term conditions are appropriately supported by the care and welfare system.
As part of overall improvements, the Department for Work and Pensions will continue testing the introduction of a Severe Disability Group, for those with the most severe health conditions, so people do not need to complete a detailed application form or go through an assessment.
The Government is not planning to scrap the 20-metre rule. The enhanced rate of the PIP mobility component is intended to be for people ‘unable’ or ‘virtually unable’ to walk. The DWP believes the current assessment criteria, including the 20-metre rule, are the best way of identifying people whose physical mobility is most limited.
Some have expressed concerns about the assessment of fluctuating conditions. All health professionals are required to assess individuals in line with the statutory requirements, including whether an individual can complete each of the 12 activities; the manner in which they can do it; and whether they can complete each activity “safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly and in a reasonable time period”. When choosing the descriptor that best reflects the claimant's ability to carry out an activity, the health professional should also consider ability and fluctuations over a 12-month period to present a coherent picture in recognition that most conditions fluctuate to some degree. In general, health professionals should record function over an average year for conditions that fluctuate over months; per week for conditions that fluctuate by the day; and by the day for conditions that vary over a day.
Although the DWP is not planning to scrap this approach, it has set out plans in the Health and Disability White Paper to test the introduction of a new Health Impact Record. Please be assured, this will give people the option of a structured way to present evidence that demonstrates the changing impact of their health conditions.