MS Support in Orkney: Here to Help

Orkney has the highest rate of Multiple Sclerosis in the world with 95 people with a verified diagnosis. This figure does not include those with a probable identification which for women in Orkney could be as much as 170. A Freedom of Information request has revealed that direct spending by NHS Orkney on MS services is 0.09%. The importance of the work done by the third sector and support groups for people with MS is vital.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system. In MS, the coating around nerve fibres (called myelin) is damaged. People with MS have a range of symptoms which usually start to appear in their twenties or thirties.

Health services in Orkney respond very quickly once a person has been diagnosed with MS. It is then that they will be referred to the specialist nurse, Moira Flett.  Moira works from the Balfour Hospital and with this being a part time position she is extremely busy. Her work does not only involve supporting people with MS but also a range of other conditions.

orkney_islands_uk_relief_location_mapIn Scotland just over 8 people in 100,000 have a verified diagnosis of MS according to a SNHS report which has collected data over the past 6 years. The rate varies and increases the further north into Scotland you go. In Orkney with the highest incidence of people with MS it is just over  17 in 100,000.In terms of actual people this means that in Scotland there were at the last count 2,731 diagnosed with MS. These figures are of a verified diagnosis. The actual number could be very much higher as MS is quite difficult to diagnose.

The average age for a diagnosis for MS is 41,however, the older a person is the more progressive the condition may be. The earlier MS is identified the more effective will be the therapies and treatments that are available. There are over twice as many women as men diagnosed with MS.  Despite there being no link with deprivation, official figures do show that those who are in less well off areas will have a longer wait before they are seen by MS specialist nurses

There are amazing people in Orkney working in both the public and third sector to provide care and assistance to those with MS. The MS Society has a branch in Orkney run by a dedicated team of volunteers. The Society can provide emotional and practical support. It runs information events, social events and you can apply to it for a financial grant.

More information on MS can be found on the MS in Orkney  Facebook page where you can easily keep in contact with folks, share views and obtain information.

Raising funds is  an ongoing activity and  local lass Sharon Gray is running in the London Marathon for the MS Society. You can find her Just Giving page by clicking here. Sharon’s page.

Separate from the MS Society is The MS Therapy Centre, Kirkwall, located in the car park beside the Scout Hut. The Therapy Centre is extremely welcoming and friendly. It has a physiotherapist, who assesses each newcomer and advises on their treatment. She is always busy but takes her time with each individual she sees. It has two physiotherapy suites equipped with adjustable beds and an electric tilt table. The staff are all there to help and have a chat with you.

The hyperbaric chamber, installed in 1984, can hold three people at a time.

therapy-centre-001 MS Hyperbaric chamber Orkney

The MS Therapy Centre Hyperbaric Chamber

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the medical use of oxygen in a pressurized environment. Increased pressure allows for oxygen to dissolve and saturate the blood plasma (independent of hemoglobin/red blood cells). It is non-invasive and results in increased oxygen levels to all organs of the body. The hyperbaric chamber has seats in it and all you need to take off are your shoes. Two trained volunteers operate the chamber.

The current users of the MS Therapy Centre all describe how warm and friendly a place it is where people always have time to talk to you. Some are long term users and others are fairly new to it but all are agreed on how beneficial it is to go there. It is difficult, however, for people not on Mainland to access the facilities due to the complications of working in a visit with ferry timetables.

The Centre requires donations to keep it going. It has a quiz night in the West End Hotel on Sunday 28th February at 8pm and it will be in the Blue Door from 13th – 18th March.  The MS Therapy Centre also has a Facebook page. More details on the fundraisers and contacts for the MS Therapy Centre at the end of the article.

The formation of Orkney Health and Care (the partnership of NHS Orkney and OIC Social Care Services) has produced a degree of uncertainty amongst people diagnosed with MS. It is  natural to worry when changes are made to a service you rely on. It is hoped that the development of a new Anticipatory Care Plan, led by Specialist MS nurse Moira Flett, will demonstrate how collaborative working can be beneficial.

An Anticipatory Care Plan is developed through a process of discussion and aims to be more about an individual’s needs with information sharing a key component. The Orkney News will cover more on the new care plan in a future edition.

There are huge pressures on Health and Care with an ageing population in Orkney and the challenges that brings.

Percent of Population who will be 85+ in 2035

Percentage %
Male 17.1
Female 41.9

Stats taken from Orkney Health and Care Joint Commissioning Strategy 2012-2022

The work of the Third Sector is therefore vital to supporting people who have a verified diagnosis of MS and those whose condition is ‘probable’. In Orkney, in addition to the MS Society and the MS Therapy Centre, help is also provided through organisations like Crossroads. The dedicated work of the volunteers and that of the staff of Orkney Health and Care cannot be praised highly enough. They make a difference: Here to Help

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

If you would like to contatct The Orkney News about MS in Orkney please use the Contact Form or e:mail


The MS Therapy Centre, Bill Miller, 07 597 336 744,

Open Mondays & Tuesdays 01856 875454

Quiz Night West End Hotel Sunday 26th February 8pm

Blue Door 13th – 18th March contact Bill Miller if you have items to donate

Categories: Uncategorized

Tagged as: , , , , , ,

1 reply »

Leave a Reply