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Good to talk

PEOPLE isolated by the Coronavirus pandemic living with multiple sclerosis (MS) can seek support and assurance thanks to a new remote chatting service. The MS Society have set up the Keep in Touch (KIT) service in response to a large number of the MS community shielding and socially distancing, ahead of a planned full befriending service later this year. Staff from the charity are stepping up to be a part of KIT and making weekly calls to contact and chat with people affected by the ‘lockdown'. Anyone affected by MS including carers and family members can receive a phone call as a check-in to let people know they are not alone. Moran Simpkins, pictured, has been director of MS Society Scotland for five years. She is one of the charity's team members who has put herself forward to be part of the calls with people accessing the service. She said: “I really wanted to be part for this service as I know how vital it is to offer people different options for support to suit them. “Keep in Touch gives people an opportunity to connect informally, have a conversation one-to-one and, perhaps now more than ever, that's key. “There's no set subjects and callers don't need to be looking for anything in particular, we're just providing a space to chat and a friendly voice on the other end of the phone, but of course can signpost to other services including our helpline if needed.” MS is particularly prevalent in Scotland, with the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) saying prevalence in Scotland is 188 cases per 100,000 people in the population, higher than the 138 cases in Wales and 162 in England. Keep in Touch aims to provide anyone affected by MS with a weekly phone call as a check-in to let people know they are not alone. The call is to reassure that someone will be checking in with them and to provide warm and friendly social contact as uncertainty may be touching other aspects of their life. More than 15,000 people live with MS in Scotland – one of the highest rates in the world. Morna continued: “We know that a lot of our community have been significantly affected by the pandemic because of work, shielding or because local groups aren't able to meet up and socialise in ways they're used to. “Our helpline receives many calls from people looking for support or information on specific subjects and we're delighted to be offering KIT as a chance to just speak without any pressure on anything at all. “For many people life has changed dramatically and there is a lot of uncertainty ahead. KIT offers an opportunity to have regular contact and speak about what you like. “If you think someone you know might like a friendly chat with one of our team, please let them know how to get in touch with our KIT service by calling our free MS helpline on 0808 800 8000 or emailing KIT@mssociety.org.uk.” A recent MS Society survey1 of more than 1,100 people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the UK, many of whom are at particular risk, found that over a third of respondents (34%) said their mental health has suffered as a result of the pandemic2, more than a quarter (26%) feel ‘scared' about what COVID-19 could mean for them3 and only 55% said they are ‘coping'4. MS damages nerves in the body and makes it harder to do everyday things, like walk, talk, eat and think. Having MS in itself does not increase your risk of getting Covid-19, but many with MS are at an increased risk of infection or complications. Thousands with the condition have been told to shield at home by the government. The The MS Society says there has has seen a significant increase in those relying on its services, as many existing support structures have had to be overhauled in response to Coronavirus. This includes healthcare professionals being redeployed, online food deliveries – which many people with disabilities relied on before the crisis – stretched beyond capacity, and family and friends unable to visit to provide essential care and companionship They add: "If you'd like to get in touch with our KIT service by calling our free MS helpline on 0808 800 8000 or emailing KIT@mssociety.org.uk." For more information on the services currently being offered by the MS Society or to donate visit mssociety.org.uk/ms-never-alone. Anyone affected by MS who needs support can call the charity's free MS helpline on 0808 800 8000.

<< back Published: 14 May 2020, 13:56

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