One in three GPs is unsure how to spot the signs of multiple sclerosis, according to the MS Society.
The report undertaken by Brand Health International questioned GPs across Britain and highlights a lack of confidence in identifying potential MS patients by their symptoms.
The research reinforces concerns the charity has over the disparate experiences of those who have symptoms but struggle to get a diagnosis.
Jayne Spink, Director of Policy and Research at the MS Society said: “Some people can wait years for a diagnosis of MS, while at the same time experiencing debilitating symptoms that could be eased with early treatment.
“GPs need to be confident in spotting the signs of MS and quickly refer patients to a neurologist – even better, an MS specialist neurologist.”
The study also showed the critical role an MS specialist nurse plays in the “patient journey”, and highlighted a need for standardised care.
As well as reporting a lack of confidence, more than three quarters of those questioned said that long waiting times between referral from GP to neurologist for diagnosis was a “key difficulty”.
Jayne added: “This research proves that awareness of MS and its associated symptoms among GPs is poor and this needs to change to give people diagnosed with MS the best possible care and support.”