Supporting specialist MS services
Amy Bowen, Director of Service Development, MS Trust
Open Door - May 2012 page 2
As the new Director of Service Development for the MS Trust, I am delighted to be part of an organisation that is so dedicated to supporting people with MS. We are a small, but beautifully formed team and everyone at the Trust is here to make a difference to the lives of people with MS by providing the very highest quality evidence-based information that is useful and practical, by listening to and supporting people with MS and their friends and family and by developing books, resources and an easy-to-use website to help people with MS make positive choices about managing their life, work and health.
As well as supporting people with MS, the MS Trust also has a real passion for ensuring there are specialist services and trained healthcare professionals to provide them. We provide a range of education programmes for health and social care professionals and we also work to help specialist services demonstrate the difference they make to the lives of people with MS and to the smooth running of the health service. It is a challenging financial time in the NHS and things are changing fast. MS specialist nurses and therapists need to keep making the case for the value of their services and the MS Trust is supporting a number of projects that aim to secure MS specialist services for the future.
The MS Trust has recently produced a report Defining the value of MS specialist nurses. This report assesses the case for the value of MS specialist nursing and identifies more work needed to strengthen the case further. We know that people with MS greatly value and rely on their MS specialist nurses. We want to continue to gather the evidence that will help make that case to those commissioning and designing services in the future.
The report makes some recommendations about ways to demonstrate the value of MS specialist nursing. One of these is to define how many people with MS a specialist nurse can support. Caseload is a complex issue and depends on the needs of individual people with MS, the number of nurses, the geography of the area (rural or urban) and the other services that are available. It is vital to support work that ensures nurses have a manageable size caseload that allows them to properly meet the needs of people with MS. The MS Trust has begun work to help define the caseload for an MS nurse. The first phase has been undertaken by Dr Alison Leary, a nurse herself, who is expert on the role of the specialist nurse.
We have also done a survey of the MS specialist nurses and used their responses to map out services and the location of the nurses. This is a valuable tool to help make sure services are equally available and to campaign for more services where needed.
Finally, over the next year we will be working closely with some MS nurse teams to help them pull together evidence of the impact of their service and build the skills needed to show that value to managers and commissioners.
We hope that everything that we do at the MS Trust will improve the lives of people with MS. These projects I describe are all part of our Nurse Support Programme. We believe this work is vital and that our support for MS nurses and therapists, as well as our education programme, makes a key contribution to ensuring that people with MS get the support they need.
For more information visit the Nurse Support Programme.