‘Dangerous lack’ of MS specialist nurses, charity warns

Report says one in four MS patients lives in an area where specialist nurses have twice the recommended caseload
MS Trust report

Three quarters of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) live in areas with too few specialist nurses to provide them with vital care and support, according to a new report.

In addition, one in four people with MS lives in an area where nurses have twice the recommended caseload, the research from the MS Trust shows.

Worst affected areas include north west England, southern Scotland and London, but other areas with a shortage include Leicestershire, north Wales, Teesside and West Yorkshire.

Services ‘watered down’

MS specialist nurse Liz Watson, who was named nurse of the year in 2015’s first ever Recognising Quality in the Delivery of Services in MS awards, said caseloads are a problem.

‘There are approximately 800 people with MS that I see from Bradford, so my active caseload at any time is around a quarter of that, 200 patients at a time,’ Ms Watson said.

‘The work done by the MS Trust has identified that, for a specialist nurse, a manageable caseload is 358 patients – I have more than double that number in my caseload. This results in patients getting a watered down service due to me splitting my time equitably among all of those patients.’

Ms Watson added that due to heavy caseloads, phone call response times are slower than they ought to be, while waiting times for patients at clinics are longer.

Extra funding

The MS Trust has launched the #No1alone campaign to fund new specialist nurses across the UK and ensure no MS patient has to manage the condition alone.

MS Trust director of development Amy Bowen said MS nurses play a vital role in helping people deal with the shock of diagnosis and adjust to life with the condition.

‘The dangerous lack of specialist nurses can have grave consequences for people with MS,’ she said.

‘They may have to rely on non-specialist support for what is a highly complex disease and may have to resort to using emergency department services if their symptoms become worse.’

The charity is funding three new MS specialist nurses in 2017 and plans to fund more in the coming years.

Further information

Multiple sclerosis nurses face increased pressure