Northern Ireland

Dalriada Multiple Sclerosis unit closure 'will be devastating'

MS respite centre
Image caption The unit, in Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle, will close until March next year

Closing Northern Ireland's only dedicated respite centre will have a devastating impact on people with multiple sclerosis, a woman who uses the unit has said.

It is one of a number of cuts to the health service announced on Thursday.

More than 4,000 people in Northern Ireland are affected by MS, one of the highest rates in the world.

The unit, in Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle, will close until March next year.

It has 12 beds where patients can get respite.

Rita Gallagher, who has just come back from two weeks respite care there, said the closure would have a serious impact on her and her family.

"Respite works both ways. I get the respite, but my husband, my family, get the respite too," she said.

"Whenever I am in Ballycastle, I've got my independence and I feel filled with energy to go on.

"I get so much encouragement to stand up and not lie under MS."

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Media captionRita Gallagher said her entire family benefitted from the respite service at Dalriada

On Thursday, Patricia Gordon, director of the MS Society in NI, said she was "deeply concerned".

"There are more than 4,000 people living with MS in Northern Ireland - one of the highest rates in the world - and yet MS services have been dramatically reduced in recent months causing serious distress for local families," she added.

"Regular, appropriate breaks, are crucial for maintaining the wellbeing of carers and people with MS. Inadequate respite provision can lead to declining health, increasing pressure on carers and unnecessary and costly hospital admissions.

"Rumours have been circulating for years about the future of the MS Regional Respite Unit in Dalriada Hospital, Ballycastle, and this announcement is a devastating blow for people who rely on this service. "

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