Objective: To determine the health-care preferences of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Design: Cross-sectional survey using a postal questionnaire comprising standardized measures of health related quality of life (SF-36) and of depression (BDI) and original questions about issues linked to health-care, prioritized by people with MS during an earlier qualitative phase.
Participants: A stratified sample of 318 people with MS in Scotland and England.
Results: Questionnaires were sent to 471 people with multiple sclerosis. The 318 respondents (68%) reported a wide variation in quality of life, but on average scored significantly lower than normative values in all dimensions of the SF-36. The most commonly used home treatment during the previous year was evening primrose oil, taken by almost half of the sample (47%). Use of cannabis was acknowledged by 8%. There was evidence that many preferences concerning health services were not satisfied. For instance lack of advice about at least one MS related issue was reported lacking for three-quarters of the sample and 17% lacked advice in at least five areas. Advice about exercise was the single most requested area. The most frequently consulted health professional was the GP (78%) followed by the hospital consultant (50%). The professional that respondents most commonly said they would like to have seen was a specialist MS nurse (30%). Forty-three percent of the sample said they had attended a special meeting for people with MS or disabilities. They were equally divided between those who did and who did not find their last attendance helpful.
Conclusions: People with MS display a wide variation in their preference for services and unmet needs. Information about management (both conventional and unconventional), relevant tailored advice and access to appropriately skilled professionals should be feasible components of high quality care. This work has highlighted the value of involving people with MS in the identification of their preferences; further research is needed to show how these might be provided most effectively.