MS man backs ‘Keep Us Well’

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A Coleraine man living with multiple sclerosis (MS) is supporting a campaign against the reintroduction of prescription charges for those living with long term conditions.

The Keep Us Well campaign is calling on Health Minister Simon Hamilton MLA and the Stormont Executive to end the uncertainty and commit to no return to prescription charges for the one in three people and their families here living with one or more long term conditions.

More than 50 charities in Northern Ireland are supporting the campaign which is led by British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) and MS Society. The charities say paying for treatment will place an unfair burden on the sick and disabled, and it won’t save the health service money in the long term.

Coleraine man Chris Magee (53) who lives with relapsing remitting MS said: “I take around 13 medications per day for fatigue, digestive problems, neurological pain and low mood. If charges were introduced I couldn’t afford all my medications.

“Taking my medications is an essential part of managing my MS. In December 2014 I was taken off one of my tablets and I had the worst relapse since my diagnosis in 2005.

“The pain was excruciating. I lay on the floor for days in agony, not able to get dressed, never mind go to work. I could barely function; my wife had to feed me. I ended up in hospital for over three weeks and it was a very difficult time for me and my family.”

Chris added: “Living with a disability already makes me feel devalued. Learning to use a wheelchair is a big adjustment and coping with an unpredictable condition like MS has a big impact on my emotional wellbeing.

“I pay my taxes and I’m grateful for the health service we have. But why should I pay more because of an illness which I didn’t ask for? I think introducing prescription charges is morally wrong. It’s also a false economy and will cause more people like me to end up in in hospital, costing the health service much more. My medications keep me going. Prescription charges would put me in a very dark place”.

Director of MS Society in Northern Ireland, Patricia Gordon said: “Medication is not a luxury for people living with a long term conditions such as MS. It is as vital a part of their treatment as seeing a specialist or receiving physiotherapy.”