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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

New MS studies unveiled at Paris meeting

Two reports from the multiple sclerosis get-together in Paris, held last week, caught my attention.

The session was a joint meeting of ECTRIMS and ACTRIMS, the European and Americas Committees for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.

Both items from Paris are of special interest to me, as I have personal experience of them.

ParisThe first is news that, after the first round of symptoms, multiple sclerosis can stay mild without causing major problems for decades. This has been uncovered by a 30-year British study.

The second is research that shows that two things appear to increase the risk of MS, independent of each other. One is a strong immune reaction to an Epstein-Barr virus infection while the other is low levels of vitamin D.

My own experience of life with MS includes initial symptoms in the mid-1980s. Diagnosis of ‘benign’ MS followed in 2002, and it was another 10 years before the onset of major problems. They have since progressed.

That’s a period of more than three decades.

I had a brush with EBV, contrcti.ng glandular fever, otherwise called mononucleosis, in my early 20s, and was found the be deficient in vitamin D a year ago.

Paris: Research studies

In Paris, Karen K. Chung of the University College London Institute of Neurology discussed “Does ‘benign’ multiple sclerosis exist? A 30-year follow-up study of people presenting with clinically isolated syndrome”.

Scientists refer to cases with no apparent impairment of the nervous system as benign MS. Despite this, the exact definition is still undecided and, in fact, some researchers argue that benign MS does not exist.

As far as EBV and vitamin D are concerned, researchers from Finland and the USA studied the two risk factors in pregnant women who later developed MS.

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MS therapy alemtuzumab is named a ‘rip-off’ drug, report

Pharmaceutical companies sell some MS disease modifying therapies (DMTs) at extortionate prices. Big pharma stands accused of setting prices to rip-off the public, and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Who’d have thought it? I am shocked (well, no, not really).

One such drug labelled a rip-off, and used to treat multiple sclerosis, is alemtuzumab. It goes by the brand name of Lemtrada.

rip-offA new report has revealed these facts in its findings. Titled Pills and profits – How drug companies make a killing out of public research, it was published by Global Justice Now.

According to MS-UK’s website:

Alemtuzumab was developed at Cambridge University and purchased by Sanofi Genzyme and was originally approved for the treatment of B-cell chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia. Cambridge scientists discovered it could also be used to treat MS and it was utilised for this non-licensed purpose at a cost of around £2,500 per treatment course in 2012.

rip-offSanofi Genzyme withdrew the drug from the market and re-launched later as an MS medicine at a far higher price per dose. It now costs £56,000 per treatment course, which is a 2140% price increase.

Drugs used for the treatment of cancer, arthritis and MS are among a number of drugs that are costing the NHS billions each year despite a significant amount of money being used to fund the development of such medicines.

The UK government is the second largest funder country, after the US, for research and development (R&D) in diseases that predominantly affect poor countries. The UK government spent £2.3 billion on health R&D in 2015 alone. Globally, it is estimated that the public pays for two-thirds of all upfront drug R&D costs, with around a third of new medicines originating in public research institutions.

Rip-off of public money

The new report highlights the level of UK public money used to develop new drugs, with two out of five of the NHS’s most expensive drugs discovered using substantial public money. It also calls for greater transparency in drug pricing and on where taxpayer money is being spent, as well as a radical overhaul in the way R&D of new medicines are funded.

The pharmaceutical industry often claims that high prices are a direct result of high research and development costs. However, the process for setting drug prices remains unknown and is shrouded in secrecy.

Heidi Chow of Global Justice Now, one of the co-authors of the report said: “Big pharmaceutical companies are ripping us off by taking over drugs developed with substantial public money and selling the drugs back to the NHS at extortionate prices. This is nothing short of daylight robbery of British taxpayers by some of the most profitable corporations in the world. It’s about time politicians take a stand to ensure that drugs produced from publicly-funded research are affordable for the NHS.

“Across the world, 10 million people are dying needlessly because they can’t access vital medicines. The government must take action to ensure that UK-funded research benefits public health globally rather than lining corporate pockets.”

Strong words indeed but, I would say, undoubtedly justified.

I applaud the researchers and authors of the report, and Global Justice Now for publishing it. This despicable behaviour is nothing short of blatant profiteering. Let’s stop it.  NOW.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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U-turn over plans to delay treatment for people who are newly-diagnosed with MS

Multiple sclerosis campaigners, led by the MS Society, are celebrating a significant victory.

They opposed plans to delay access to disease modifying therapies (DMTs) for people newly diagnosed with MS in Northern Ireland. This is a UK area where certain powers, including responsibility for the National Health Service, are devolved from central government.

And, the decision-makers listened.

u-turn

U-turn is a cause to celebrate (Pic: MS Society).

In the face of mounting objections, including a petition, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT) has made a U-turn. It dropped its highly controversial plans.

An MS Society statement says the announcement (to drop the plans) is a victory for the MS community. It says thousands of people came together across the UK to oppose the plans.

It all started in August, when the BHSCT announced plans to delay access to DMTs as part of a range of cost-saving measures.

“The BHSCT holds the budget for the prescribing of all DMTs, so this would have led to delays in accessing DMTs for people across the country,” the MS Society explained.

Since then, 5190 members of the MS community signed the society’s petition asking the BHSCT to reconsider its position.

U-turn prompted by protests

The MS Society went to public meetings to raise concerns It held its own meeting with representatives from all political parties. And, it spoke in the media about how the plans would affect the MS community.

Also, the society submitted a written response to the BHSCT’s consultation on the proposals.

Although the action taken by the society is to be congratulated, and the U-turn is most welcome, the fight goes on. Many other services used by people with MS remain at risk.

For example, also in Northern Ireland, you have to wait too long to see a consultant neurologist. Meanwhile, across the UK, people with MS need to fight for the treatments, care, and support they need. That shouldn’t happen, it is ridiculous. It is plainly wrong. We need another U-turn here

We, people with MS, must stand up to fight for our health, our rights. And I commend the MS Society’s call to action. “It’s so important that, together, we continue to speak up for MS,” it says.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Universal credit not so universal after all, conflicting advice about ESA

People unable to work who try to claim universal credit can receive conflicting advice from different UK government officials. Some say the new benefit includes employment and support allowance (ESA), claimed by many with MS, other diseases and disabilities. However, other advisers maintain that it is separate.

conflicting adviceStrange as it may seem, I can understand both pieces of contradictory information. In fact, universal credit does include income-related ESA. However, it does not contribution-based ESA.

So, if you ask whether universal credit includes ESA, the correct answer is both YES and NO. Confusing, huh?

In fact, universal credit replaces six benefits. These are:

  • Child tax credit
  • Housing benefit
  • Income support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Working tax credit

Confused by conflicting advice

The case of one claimant given conflicting advice was highlighted by the Manchester Evening News. This was its story:

A bereaved dad has told how battling with the ‘chaotic’ Universal Credit system in the wake of his daughter’s death helped push him to the brink of suicide.

Steve Pogson suffered a breakdown a year ago and since then has tried twice to claim benefits designed for people too unwell to work.

But faced with the new Universal Credit roll-out he says confusion, contradictory advice, endless expensive phone calls and repeated delays ultimately contributed to him trying to take his own life.

Steve, 50, from New Islington, has suffered depression and anxiety all his life, but had held down a successful civil service career until tragedy hit.

“When my daughter died in a car accident – my only child – I threw myself into my work rather than address that, but eventually a few years later it just overwhelmed me.

“I lost my job due to having a breakdown and last October just climbed into my bed and used my savings and credit card to get by.”

Official advice

After six weeks he eventually applied for Universal Credit after being advised by an official that Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – which is intended for people unable to work due to illness or disability – had now been rolled into it.

But after being bounced backwards and forwards between the departments and repeatedly ringing the government’s 0345 number, his back-dated ESA claim was eventually rejected, despite a letter from his GP stating that he had been unwell.

Worried about his rising levels of debt, he then forced himself back into work, while also embarking on a frustrating appeals process that is yet to be completed.

Eventually his mental health took another turn for the worse.

“I managed to work through until August but this time I attempted suicide, because of the spiralling debt situation, plus the Department for Work and Pensions situation, plus the bereavement,” he said.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Disability benefits stopped because government doesn’t understand variable conditions

It’s true. People with variable diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, have known this for some time. It has now been proved. The government does NOT understand variable conditions.

The UK’s Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) decision to deny the payment of disability benefits to the family of a seven-year old girl has underlined that lack of understanding.

variable

Hollie Stonehouse, aged seven, looks happy and healthy, but she has a form of severe childhood arthritis (Pic: The Gazette).

Hollie Stonehouse has Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), a severe childhood condition, for which she needs chemotherapy treatment.

According to Teesside’s Gazette Live, based in Middlesbrough:

In November last year, Hollie’s JIA appeared to be in remission and in March this year all disability benefits, including carer’s allowance paid to Hollie’s mum, Andrea Keenan, were stopped.

But Andrea, 48, said that Hollie’s arthritis came back “with a vengeance” just before Christmas.

Variable conditions come and go

She said: “In November, she appeared to be doing well so the doctors tried to wean her off her medication as it looked as though she was going into remission.

“But a week before Christmas, Hollie’s arthritis had come back, not only to all the joints in her body – knees, ankles, toes, fingers – it had sadly spread to her neck.”

The DWP has made its usual comment that you and I know far too well. It says that its decisions are based on information it receives – and that Hollie’s family can appeal.

But that’s a disgrace, the family members shouldn’t have to appeal. And they wouldn’t need to if the benefits had not been stopped. This is yet another example of the insanity that is the UK disability benefits system.

Why the DWP doesn’t understand disease with variable conditions is beyond me. Good and bad days should be taken into account. If someone is regarded as being affected by a disability on some days but not others, the fact remains that they have a disability.

To say that anyone is perfectly healthy when unable to move one day, but not on another, is plainly ridiculous.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Competition in disability magazine misleading, advertising watchdog says

Words fail me, well, almost. How ridiculous is this?

The winner of a competition, for which the prize was a holiday, is unable to claim what is rightfully his because of a blunder by the holiday company and the magazine that published it.

The problem is that the resort is not totally wheelchair accessible and the competition details did not say so.

That is only a small error, you might think. After all, magazine publishers cannot be expected to think of every contingency. But, while that is true, this competition was published as an advertisement in a UK disability magazine.

misleadingThe man won a week-long, all-inclusive trip to France with Go Provence Supported Holidays, in the competition in Pos’Ability Magazine.

It said that the resort is aimed at anyone with learning difficulties, and autism. It did not say it was wheelchair accessible but, critically, neither did it say it wasn’t.

Understandably the man is disappointed that he was deprived of his prize ad, at the same time, angry that the fact that the competition details did not make the wheelchair exclusion clear. He was angry enough to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the body that oversees advertisements in the UK, that it was misleading. The ASA has now determined that the competition did breach its rules.

ASA upholds complaint of being misleading

The ASA decided the competition was misleading because it appeared “in the context of a disability lifestyle magazine”.

And, while the holiday company got its advertising wording wrong, the magazine cannot escape its share of responsibility. Publishers have a duty to ensure the content of advertisements are accurate and not misleading in any way.

Go Provence said that the term ‘disability’ has a “wide definition” and readers would have needed to check to see if the accommodation was accessible. Sorry, I don’t agree. It should be clear.

The ASA ruling said that promoters are responsible for all aspects and all stages of their promotions.  It continued promoters must conduct their promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment.

The ruling stated: The promotion must not appear again its current form. We told Go Provence and Pos’Ability, to ensure that their future promotions included relevant applicable significant conditions where their omission was likely to mislead, including whether or not a competition prize was accessible for readers who used a wheelchair.

“We considered that they should take into account any obligations they had under the Equality Act 2010 when they communicated any limitation on what was offered to their readers, for example, the duty to make reasonable adjustments.”

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Mobility scooters: A question of cruising

Cruise lovers have widely differing opinions about the use of mobility scooters on board ships. And that affects everyone with mobility difficulties, whether caused by a disease such as multiple sclerosis, injury, or even aging.

Their views are included as comments on a story appearing on cruise.co.uk website. They vary from calls for mobility scooters to be banned to criticism of such opinions, and points in between.

mobility scootersThe main problem seems to stem from a perception that some people choose to use scooters even though they do not have a mobility issue.

Cruise companies comply with disability equality laws and have their own accessibility policies. That’s why mobility scooters and wheelchairs are widely allowed, although individual cruise lines may have their own restrictions.

Some comments were against mobility scooters:

Jeanette Webster: They shouldn’t be allowed on cruise ships they take up to much room,plus they drive them to fast without care for others.

I have to disagree with a ban but mobility scooter users must do so with care and consideration for others.

Angela Hobbs Clarke: Why should we be inconvenienced by them? We pay a lot of money to cruise, and to be able to move about the ship without large scooters being parked in the halls. How would these disabled people get off in an emergency, and how would we able bodied passengers navigate round them in the dark.

Inconvenienced? People who NEED to use scooters are still people. They should be given access and treated equally. That is their legal right.

Paul Lavin: They are a lethal weapon they should be totally banned everywhere. People with genuine mobility problems should use a conventional wheelchair.

What a disgusting attitude. Everywhere? Really? Lethal weapons, indeed! And as for using a conventional wheelchair, what if they can’t use one? Maybe they are alone and don’t have the strength to get about unless someone pushes them?

Carol Hunter: We went on a cruise in May and there was a man driving round on his mobility scooter, making everyone get out of the way. In the evening, he would park it at the side of the dance floor, get up and have a dance with a few ladies. He’d then get back on his scooter and drive off!!

If this is true, I find such behaviour deplorable. From what Carol says, it would seem this scooter user’s mobility problems are not genuine.

Others spoke in defence of scooters:

Janice Derose: Why not? I’ve been on several cruises, no problem at all with them (scooters). People need a holiday, they shouldn’t need to stay at home just because people like you can’t show empathy. None of us are out of this world yet, maybe we should start saving for one.

Fair point.

David Haverty: One day you may well need one. Will you want to give up cruising? I don’t have one and don’t anticipate needing one in the foreseeable future, but feel compact scooters should be accepted, even if with restrictions on cabin choice or total number of scooters on board.

I agree, on both.

Diane Roe: I don’t drive too fast without a care for others. In fact, over the last few years I have noticed more ignorant able-bodied people who push in front and block the lifts, it works 2 ways!!

Scooter users who have disabilities are mostly accompanied by someone walking, so driving the scooter at walking speed is the norm. It’s true about the lifts/elevators. Able-bodies people can use the stairs, scooter users can’t.

Maralyn Lord: Anybody that says no – I hope that one day they don’t need them (mobility scooters) because whoever is using the scooter, the person with them is usually able to walk. Should they be denied a holiday on a cruise ship? Anybody who says yes (they should be denied a cruise), I hope that they never need to use one. Life is not easy. Should we stay at home because it causes a nuisance to people more fortunate than ourselves?

No one should be forced to stay at home and forego a cruise holiday just because they have reduced mobility and use a scooter.

And finally…

Janet Bottomley: My father takes his mobility scooter but only uses it when he goes ashore. He walks with a stick aboard. And if they only allow scooters in adapted cabins it naturally controls how many are on board.

Great that he’s able to do that.

I have cruised, successfully, using both a manual wheelchair and a scooter. Next time, I’ll will use my folding electric wheelchair that I am confident will give me the best of both worlds.

Happy cruising to all.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

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Lumbar puncture can be a real pain in the ….. head

Just the other day, I was thinking back to the mid-1980s. That was the time that I underwent a lumbar puncture, also called a spinal tap, at a leading London hospital. At the time, I had some symptoms linked to an unknown problem with my nervous system. This had led doctors to order the test. 

Of course, lumbar puncture results help neurologists diagnose multiple sclerosis and other issues with the immune or nervous systems. However, those results are not enough to be used in isolation. A full diagnosis of MS also needs an MRI and Evoked Potentials, as well as looking at symptoms and medical history.

lumbar punctureThe lumbar puncture is a procedure where a needle is inserted into the lower spine to withdraw some cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid surrounds your brain and spinal cord. The main job of this fluid is to cushion the brain and spine.

While tests on the fluid are a good indicator, they cannot make a firm determination of MS. In fact, some people who are later given an MS diagnosis have no abnormalities in their lumbar puncture results. Indeed, the USA’s National MS Society says that 5-10% of MS patients show no problems.

Negative lumbar puncture results don’t mean no MS

That’s exactly my experience. The results of my lumbar puncture in the 1980s were negative and led to a nonsense diagnosis. Doctors decided, then, that I leant excessively on my elbows and sat too often with my legs crossed.

Seventeen years later, when I received my diagnosis of MS, the neurologist said he was 99% certain. He explained that he could not be 100% sure without a new lumbar puncture.

No way. I recalled the horrors of my first time. The awful headache pain that lasted three days, three days in which I couldn’t stand or walk. I could only lie down.

lumbar puncture

It’s vital to rest well after your lumbar puncture.

I am assured that not every lumbar puncture ends that way. It seem that some people may have a much easier time, but the risk of pain is still there. So, if you have a lumbar puncture coming up, be sure to listen to your doctors and get plenty of rest afterward.

Some people say that you can return to work if your work is not physically active. I disagree. I did go to my office in the afternoon but was unable to work owing to the terrible pain. The lesson is clear, don’t do what I did. Instead, rest and take a painkiller that includes acetaminophen.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Doubt that ‘missing’ benefits letter was ever sent

Postal delivery services make mistakes. They all do, from time to time. To err is human and those services are run by …. wait for it …. humans.

Those services can deliver mail after a delay and sometimes, but extremely rarely, they manage to lose it, so it never turns up at the intended destination.

Then, there are those “it’s in the post” people who say they have sent you a letter, but haven’t really. Worse still, though, are organisations that make a habit of saying “we sent you a letter”, when they didn’t.

The UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) causes numerous allegations of this sort of behavior. Just look at these examples, originally published by voxpolitical.com website.

Example 1 A new mother – and her baby – are facing eviction because the DWP cut off her Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Why? The DWP claimed she had missed an appointment for a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) even though she protests that she was not told about the appointment.

Letter delivery assumed by DWP

letterThe department says it “can be assumed” that the letter was delivered as there was no evidence to the contrary. But, how can anyone prove they did NOT receive a letter? Evidence of something not happening never exists. As some organisations say ‘proof of posting is not proof of delivery’.

This young mother says she had no idea any letter had been sent, until the DWP sent her one – which did arrive – asking her why she hadn’t turned up to the WCA.

Example 2 Nicol Hart, on the Vox Political Facebook page, wrote: “They (the DWP) DON’T care…!! No one believes that the letters are even sent out…!! It is a deliberate ploy by the DWP to manufacture a reason to stop paying people benefits…!! I know people who have never had the letters and have had their benefits stopped because they never received any letter informing them of an interview that had been arranged for them.

Sitting in the home of a claimant, I watched him open his mail and there WAS a letter there notifying him of an appointment made for him by the DWP…!! The only PROBLEM was – that the appointment was for 2 days BEFORE the letter arrived at his house…!!

Example 3 A lone parent family member arrived at usual signing on time. She was told: “You should have been here two hours ago. We sent a letter. You’re sanctioned.” “I didn’t get a letter,” she said. “We sent it,” they maintained.

She rang me in tears, I told her to go back in and ask to see a supervisor, and to ask the supervisor to print a copy of supposed letter or record thereof, off her file. Surprise, there wasn’t one, because it was never sent. Payments restored. Trust destroyed.

Letter of the law?

Vox Political  commented: “The evidence is clear: The Department for Work and Pensions lies about its activities. DWP officers either deliberately fail to send appointment letters to vulnerable people or they delay those letters until after the date of the appointments. Then they claim they are above suspicion and accuse innocent people of dishonesty.

“This has to end.”

I agree. It’s high time, that people who are sick, have a disability, or are vulnerable, were treated with respect and honesty. Whether or not the DWP is capable of that is another matter. It’s certainly open to doubt.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming individuals here. The real problem is the all-pervading culture of the DWP, a culture that starts at the top.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Bill to legalise medicinal cannabis clears first hurdle, but will it go further?

Campaigners for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis are this week celebrating a small victory. Legalisation could help people with multiple sclerosis and other diseases but, realistically, there’s little chance it will become law

cannabis

Paul Flynn MP.

Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West and patron of the United Patients Alliance (UPA) presented a 10-Minute Rule Motion in the UK parliament’s House of Commons. Its purpose is to legalise the use of cannabis as a medicine.

UPA supporters, who gathered outside, took delighted when the bill gained its first reading. This is the first step on a long journey of any bill to pass into law.

The UPA aims to make sure everyone who might benefit from cannabis, to improve their quality of life, have access to it without the risk of criminalisation or stigmatisation.

Its website says: “We would see a legal, regulated supply of cannabis for patients so that they can use it safely, with knowledge of strain and dosage and with the best knowledge on healthy modes of intake and ways of medicating with cannabis.”uld see a legal, regulated supply of cannabis for patients so that they can use it safely, with knowledge of strain and dosage and with the best knowledge on healthy modes of intake and ways of medicating with cannabis.

In pursuit of this, the UPA organised a peaceful demonstration outside parliament, in the form of a ‘cannabis tea party’. It highlighted how the drug acts as pain relief for those with chronic and fatal illnesses.

The UK currently bans the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Sativex spray is the only exception.

Across the world, medicinal cannabis, or marijuana, is legal in many places including Canada and Uruguay. It is also legal in a number of states in America as it in some European countries.

Legalising cannabis – intelligent and compassionate

Flynn joined the tea party, and said: “We have to say to the government, for goodness sake, catch up with the rest of the world and allow a responsible legal market to operate to replace a market that’s illegal and dangerous.

cannabis“It’s political cowardice, they’re afraid of being mocked on this, but I’m afraid politicians don’t get credit for acting intelligently. This is the intelligent and compassionate thing to do. The law is an ass.”

Flynn has named his proposal The Elizabeth Brice Bill, named after a multiple sclerosis patient who died in 2011. She has been a long-time campaigner for legalising cannabis for medical purposes and started the UK branch of the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics. She and Flynn are said to have drunk cannabis tea together, in parliament, many years ago.

The next stage of the lawmaking process is the Second Reading. This has been set for Friday, February 23.

Bills introduced by MPs under the Ten-Minute Rule don’t often progress much further. Most stimulate publicity for, or seek the house’s opinion about, an issue which may later feature in another bill.

However, not all Ten-Minute Rule bills fail. Some do become law. Indeed, since 1945, more than 60 of them have become Acts of Parliament.

Perhaps, one day, UK drug laws may change but don’t expect Paul Flynn’s bill to achieve that. Sadly, there are too many MPs prepared to oppose it.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

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