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Logo of brjgenpracRCGP homepageJ R Coll Gen Pract at PubMed CentralBJGP at RCGPBJGP at RCGP
Br J Gen Pract. 2005 May 1; 55(514): 378–383.
PMCID: PMC1463161

A primary care-based needs assessment of people with multiple sclerosis

K MacLurg, MSc, MRCGP, DRCOG, General Practitioner and Research Fellow and P Reilly, MD, FRCGP, MICGP, General Practitioner and Professor of Primary Care
Department of General Practice, Queens University Belfast
S Hawkins, BSc, MRCP, FRCP, Consultant Neurologist and O Gray, MRCP, Research Fellow, Specialist Registrar in Neurology
Department of Medicine, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast
E Evason, BA, MSSc, Professor in Social Administration and Policy (retired)
University of Ulster at Jordanstown, County Antrim
D Whittington, MA, MMED, Director of Education, Research and Development



Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a common cause of chronic progressive neurological disability where reduction in quality of life is an important feature. Many GPs have MS patients with a range of disabilities. Little is known about the supply of medical and community services and how this compares with demand.


We aim to describe a community based sample of MS patients and investigate how disease characteristics, benefits, services accessed and perceived needs relate to sense of wellbeing.


Cross-sectional survey.


Participants were recruited from a representative network of 30 GP practices across Northern Ireland.


MS patients answered a professionally administered questionnaire and agreed to their medical records being examined. Information was collected about their medical condition, sociodemographic characteristics, receipt of benefits and services, perceived needs and sense of wellbeing.


Of the 149 participants, 23% were mildly affected (Kurtzke's Expanded Disability Status Scale [EDSS] 0–4.5), 41% were moderately disabled (EDSS 5.0–6.5) and 36% were severely disabled (EDSS 7.0–9.5). Disability was related to employment, receipt of benefits and services. Physiotherapy was a commonly perceived need. Other perceived needs differed between the moderately and severely disabled groups. Scores relating to wellbeing were related to disability and perceived needs.


The relationship between use of medical and community services and disability is important for planning service provision. We have shown that perceived needs are related to wellbeing. In a progressive illness these developing needs could be anticipated.

Keywords: disability, multiple sclerosis, needs assessment

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners