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Gordon Aikman: The patient who transformed motor neurone disease care

In the brief time he had after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), Gordon Aikman successfully campaigned to increase the number of specialist MND nurses in Scotland. Now, a scholarship established in his name will encourage further improvements in care.
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In the brief time he had after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), Gordon Aikman campaigned successfully to increase the number of specialist MND nurses in Scotland. Now, a scholarship established in his name will encourage further improvements in care

In March 2015, Nursing Standard published a feature about a remarkable young man called Gordon Aikman.

He had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) the previous year, aged 29, while working as director of research for the Better Together campaign, ahead of the Scottish independence referendum. The Scot knew the prognosis wasn't good, and was determined to make the most of the time he had left.

He launched Gordon's Fightback a campaign whose aims included

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In the brief time he had after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), Gordon Aikman campaigned successfully to increase the number of specialist MND nurses in Scotland. Now, a scholarship established in his name will encourage further improvements in care


Gordon Aikman died from motor neurone disease this year. A scholarship has
been set up in his name to help those affected by the condition. 

In March 2015, Nursing Standard published a feature about a remarkable young man called Gordon Aikman.

He had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) the previous year, aged 29, while working as director of research for the Better Together campaign, ahead of the Scottish independence referendum. The Scot knew the prognosis wasn't good, and was determined to make the most of the time he had left.

He launched Gordon's Fightback – a campaign whose aims included doubling the number of specialist MND nurses, paying MND nurses from the public purse, fast-tracking benefits and doubling MND research funding.

At the time, Mr Aikman told Nursing Standard that his MND nurse had been his 'lifeline'.

'She's central to my care,' he said. 'She sorts out delays and bottlenecks, she speeds things up. People progress at different rates and their needs are changing all the time; it's great to know that someone is going on that journey with me, and that it's someone who knows about the disease and knows what to expect.'

'A fitting tribute' 

Mr Aikman died on 2 February 2017, aged 31. In less than three years since his diagnosis, Gordon's Fightback raised more than £500,000 for MND research and, in Scotland at least, achieved its aims. He also married his partner, political journalist Joe Pike.

Now nurses and other health professionals are being given the chance to take Mr Aikman's legacy forward. The Scottish Government has announced a £25,000 scholarship to fund health professionals, including nurses, and individuals to develop practical improvements to care for people with MND (see box).

Speaking during a Scottish Parliament debate to reflect on Mr Aikman's contribution, health secretary Shona Robison said she hoped the scholarship money would be used to 'drive forward the improvements to MND care that Gordon has kick-started in Scotland, and be a fitting tribute to his memory'.

According to MND Scotland chief executive Craig Stockton, Mr Aikman transformed MND care in Scotland and will continue to do so through his legacy.

'There are now 16 MND nurses across the country, compared to the seven before his campaign,' Mr Stockton said. 'The increase is already making a huge difference to the lives of those affected. With the recent announcement from the Scottish government of the Gordon Aikman Scholarship, nurses and other health professionals will have an opportunity to increase their knowledge and expertise of caring for someone with MND.

'Gordon was an inspiration to many of us, and his tireless campaigning to make the lives of people with MND better will never be forgotten.' 

The Gordon Aikman Scholarship

• Applications for the Gordon Aikman Scholarship will open later this year. Details of how to apply will be published in due course.
• The scholarship will be open to health professionals, including nurses, as well as those affected by MND and their families.
• The aim is to support health professionals and individuals to develop, implement and evaluate practical interventions to improve the quality of life and maximise the independence of people with MND.
• The scholarship programme will be administered by the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals Research Unit at Stirling University, in association with the Euan MacDonald Centre at Edinburgh University.


Jennifer Trueland is a freelance health writer

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