Ensuring early diagnosis and support for those living with MND remains a key priority of the NHS.
With early diagnosis key to treating the symptoms of MND, I am glad that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published clear guidelines for clinicians on the assessment and management of MND. These set out the signs and symptoms of the disease, and recommend that patients suspected of having MND should be referred without delay. The Royal College of GPs and the MND Association have also worked together to produce a ‘Red Flag Tool’ which sets out key signs of MND to help GPs to identify suspected cases and ensure prompt referral.
I also recognise the valuable contribution made by carers of people with MND, many of whom spend a significant proportion of their life providing support to family members, friends and neighbours. I agree that carers must receive the right support to help them carry out their caring roles. That is why a cross-Government National Carers Strategy was introduced to look at what more can be done to support existing and future carers. After a lengthy consultation with carers themselves, the Government announced a two-year programme of support. This includes support for young carers, effective action to help carers balancing their caring and employment responsibilities, and ensuring that health and social care services are responsive to their needs. The Government is continuing to support the implementation of improved rights for carers, enshrined in the Care Act 2014. I welcome the fact that benefits to support vulnerable and disabled people, including Carer’s Allowance, are exempt from the freeze on working-age benefits. I am glad to note that the Department of Health and Social Care will continue to lead a programme of targeted work to support carers, including young and unpaid.
I am encouraged that almost £288 million has been spent on research into neurological conditions, including MND, in the past decade through the publicly-funded National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). With the NIHR’s annual spending on neurological conditions up by more than £22 million in that period, I remain hopeful that this funding will discover new ways to improve the lives of those diagnosed with MND.
Over the past five years, the Department of Health and Social Care has spent over £9 million on MND research through the NIHR. Additionally, UK Research and Innovation, through the Medical Research Council, has spent £45 million on MND research over the past five years. This includes research which aims to increase understanding of the causes and genetic mechanisms of MND.