I recently attended a Senedd meeting on Zoom about Muscular Dystrophy, which focused on how Covid had affected people with neuromuscular and muscle wasting conditions in Wales with regard to their medical care. It was attended by politicians, doctors, patients and other clinicians who discussed various issues that have affected the levels of treatment afforded to those with muscle wasting conditions both throughout the pandemic and prior to it. A prominent politician present was Member of the Senedd Rhun ap Iorwerth, who intended to help lobby Welsh government for more action.
Those present spoke of the negative impact of Covid shielding on the care of neuromuscular patients, which caused lack of access to care, disruption to services and delays in receiving treatment. Over the pandemic, Muscular Dystrophy UK carried out a survey of people with muscle wasting conditions across Britain which showed the problems caused by the pandemic. However, some of the problems highlighted were present even before 2020. These included lack of funding, not enough specialist staff and a reliance on the goodwill and efforts of individual health staff who end up burnt out and leave their roles. The pandemic meant that people with muscle wasting conditions missed out on appointments and treatment, and were left isolated from society whilst shielding. I was interested to hear the thoughts and feelings of other people with forms of Muscular Dystrophy, and those in charge of their care as many of the things spoken about are issues that I have dealt with personally and have seen for myself. As such, it was good to have confirmation that it is a common experience and that things do need to be done.
In the meeting, Muscular Dystrophy UK went through the findings of this survey and discussed five priority areas that were needed to ensure care for those with neuromuscular conditions continues and improves going forward.
1. more funding – the allocation of more money and more consistent funding directly for the care of neuromuscular patients
2. creation of a network manager role – this individual would help to push through directives and implement change with regard to patient care and the Wales Neuromuscular Network
3. more specialist staff – particularly psychology and mental health services, but also neuromuscular physiotherapists, nurses and neurologists etc
4. easy access to new market drugs – providing better and timelier introduction of specialist drugs to those with neuromuscular conditions
5. more staff in the community – introduce more trained neuromuscular staff who can work in the community to bridge gaps within the system.
The importance of improving the services for people with neuromuscular conditions cannot be overstated. People with muscle wasting conditions have complex needs which require complex long-term care from multi-disciplinary care teams. Not having adequate care can reduce the quality of life of those with neuromuscular conditions and potentially reduce life-expectancy, so making sure improvements are made to care services is vital. Increasing funding and awareness are therefore paramount to making meaningful change in this area.