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News - February 2008

Open Door - February 2008 page 3

Sir John Harvey-Jones
New benefit rules
Putting People First
More accountable healthcare in Scotland
Review of neuroscience services in Wales

Sir John Harvey Jones Sir John Harvey Jones

Sir John Harvey-Jones 1924 - 2008

MS Trust President

We are all saddened by Sir John's death. At such times, we say trite things: "It was a privilege to have known him" or "He was an inspiration". It is really true of Sir John.

When he joined our Board of Trustees in 1999, Sir John inspired us with the belief that even small organisations can make a big difference. In 2000 and 2004 he spoke movingly on Radio 4 of his beloved daughter who has MS, raising both awareness and significant funds to support our work. The letters we subsequently received showed how many people his words had touched.

Sir John didn't do things by halves and when he became unable to attend every meeting, he asked to stand down. It was our good fortune that he then readily agreed to become our President. We miss him.

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New benefit rules

The MS Trust is concerned that the eligibility rules for new disability benefits will not take into account the effects of long-term fluctuating conditions such as MS.

From October 2008, Incapacity Benefit will be replaced by Employment Support Allowance which will be awarded following a work capability assessment. The new system will place greater emphasis on what disabled people can do, rather than what they cannot. Tests of the ability to walk or climb stairs will be replaced by assessments of whether people can use computer equipment and other skills.

Whilst the MS Trust welcomes any support that will help people cope with the symptoms of MS in the workplace, we are concerned that the new regulations will not take account of people unable to work because their condition varies from day to day. Similarly, we are worried that people with MS will feel pressurised into returning to work at the wrong time and the impact this might have on both their health and their confidence.

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Putting People First

The government has announced that the Putting People First scheme will be rolled out across England from April. The scheme will allow people assessed as eligible for social services support to develop their own care plan and to control the finances themselves.

There will of course be restrictions on how the money is spent, and safeguards to ensure that it is spent on items which have been agreed in a care plan. However, the scheme does allow users to focus on what they need and is not limited by what social services can provide. For instance, in one of the pilot areas for the scheme, a person with MS was able to pay for a season ticket for his local football club as an alternative to attending a day centre.

The scheme also encourages care providers to rise to the challenge by offering better value and more tailored services.

The government has provided £520m on top of existing social services budgets over the next three years to support the scheme.

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More accountable healthcare in Scotland

The Local Healthcare Bill will make the Health Boards that manage the NHS in each region of Scotland, more accountable to local communities. The Bill proposes improving public involvement in the work of Health Boards and directly electing members. The consultation period runs until 1 April.

The Bill is available on the Scottish Government website or by ringing 0131 244 2033.

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Review of neuroscience services in Wales

The Welsh Assembly Government has expanded its review of neurosurgery in Wales to include all neurology services. The review, which is due to report in the summer, will consider equity of service provision across Wales, perhaps centralising services, and the possibility of a new specialist centre for North Wales.