Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has praised the work of MS Society Orkney and local efforts to support those living with Multiple Sclerosis during a debate in the Scottish Parliament marking MS Awareness Week 2022.
Orkney has the highest prevalence of MS in the world. A report last year found that between January 2010 and December 2019, Orkney had an incidence rate of 17.51 per 100,000 head of population, with one in 170 women in the islands living with the condition.
Mr McArthur praised "remarkable" fundraising efforts recently by the farming community and paid tribute to the "greatly valued" Orkney MS therapy centre and MS nurse, Moira Flett.
Orkney's MSP also spoke about the importance for those living with or affected by MS being able to get together to "feel the companionship" and discuss experiences, something made more difficult during the pandemic. He highlighted local watercolour classes, which moved online while Covid restrictions were in place, and looked ahead to dance workshops being hosted by Scottish Ballet later this week.
Commenting after the debate, Mr McArthur said:
"With the highest incidence rates of MS in the world, most people in Orkney will know someone affected by MS. It’s little surprise then that we have seen such remarkable support within the local community over the years, most recently with the Young Farmers' bale art competition and the Christmas Tractor Run.
"We are fortunate too in having an MS therapy centre, which is greatly valued, and an MS nurse, Moira Flett, who goes above and beyond in supporting the local MS community in Orkney.
"However, the pandemic has taken its toll in reducing opportunities for people to meet up and even access certain services and support. This can be both isolating but also lead to a deterioration in physical health as well.
"It is great to hear, therefore, that the watercolour classes have been successfully moved online. These are always popular and Sheena Graham-George is an excellent teacher, as I know from personal experience.
"I look forward as well to the workshops being held by Scottish Ballet later this week. Hopefully, working with local dance practitioners, musicians and volunteers, these workshops can be established as a long-term option for those with MS and carers.
"While there is a way to go in finding a cure for MS, we can take comfort from the progress made in recent years on treatment and early diagnosis. This has been spearheaded by research taking place in Scotland, which must be supported to continue.
"Meantime, in MS Awareness Week, I want to thank MS Society Orkney, and in particular George Hannah, for the incredible work they do all year-round providing care and support for those with MS."