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Ensuring no one is left behind: Supporting people living with chronic conditions adjust to life in the ‘new normal’

COVID-19 has been a tumultuous period. For the first time in our lives, our country was locked down to tackle increasing rises in infection and reduce unprecedented pressures on our healthcare services.

Through remarkable collaboration between the public, academia, industry, and the NHS, we have returned to a sense of normality with COVID-19 restrictions being lifted across the UK.

However, whilst the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in the UK has affected how many people view the risk of the virus,[1] there is a concern that people living with chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) could get left behind.

Together, we need to support our most vulnerable communities adjust to the ‘new normal’.

COVID-19 hugely impacted people living with chronic conditions, including MS

In the UK, 130,000 people are living with MS, and around 7,000 are newly diagnosed each year.[2] COVID-19 had a huge impact for people living with MS, who were classed as ‘clinically vulnerable’ if they were taking disease modifying therapies (DMTs).[3] This meant that some patients were asked to shield, and many had to make important decisions with their healthcare teams on how to best manage their MS during the pandemic.

We need to work together to offer solutions and reassurance to people living with chronic conditions, to ensure no one is left behind.

Generating evidence into the impact of COVID-19 for people living with MS

Generating up-to-date evidence on the impact of COVID-19 for people living with chronic conditions is key to offering the reassurance that patients and their doctors’ need to have informed discussions about their treatment choices. For example, clinical studies on the interaction between existing treatments and COVID-19 could help to dispel previous concerns raised during the pandemic and support patients to return to life in the ‘new normal’.

Keeping patients front of mind as we restore and future-proof our healthcare services

COVID-19 has taught us that if we are to bring about real change and make a long-lasting positive difference to patients’ lives, we must collaborate like never before.

The pandemic accelerated the use of telemedicine and virtual consultations, which helped to resolve issues around NHS capacity and workforce shortages during the pandemic. However, we need to work together to ensure these services remain fit-for-purpose as we look to the future.

In a survey of nearly 1,500 people living with MS in the UK, commissioned by Shift MS, over 50% of people raised concerns that remote medical assessments were not as thorough as in person consultations, and almost a third (27%) felt that virtual consultations were not suitable for first visits (following an MS diagnosis) or neurological assessments.[4]

Collaboration with the NHS and the entire health ecosystem is key to ensuring that patients receive the best standards of care. We are working hard with our partners to identify and implement the best healthcare solutions for patients most in need, no matter where they are or what their background is. We will continue to provide data and insights to enable informed and shared decision making between patients and their healthcare professional to deliver healthcare in a way that best suits patients’ needs, and ensures that we are building back better, for everyone.

This article has been created and funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd.

UK | 212914| May 2022

[1] Nuffield Foundation. More people are worried about their finances than about catching COVID-19. Available from: https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/news/more-people-are-worried-about-their-finances-than-about-catching-covid-19 [Accessed: May 2022]

[2] MS Society. MS in the UK. Available from: https://www.mssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/our-work/our-evidence/ms-in-the-uk [Accessed: May 2022]

[3] NHS. Who is at high risk from coronavirus (COVID-19). Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk/who-is-at-high-risk-from-coronavirus/ [Accessed: May 2022]

[4] Shift MS. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on multiple sclerosis (MS) management: MS community perspectives. Available from: https://shift.ms/ms-and-covid-19 [Accessed: May 2022]

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