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Specialist Nurse Programme

specialist nurse

Our Specialist Nurse Programme funds specialists in areas with the poorest MS nurse provision. 

The MS Trust believes it is essential to improve access to specialist services for people with all forms of MS and that working collaboratively with the NHS and MS health professionals is the key to achieving this goal.

What is the Specialist Nurse Programme?

We believe that everyone with MS in the UK should have access to MS specialists – MS nurses in particular – regardless of where they live, or the type of MS they have.

As part of our commitment to making this a reality, we are working with NHS organisations to improve access to MS specialist nurses for people with MS and support overall MS service improvement.

We estimate that around 68,000 people with MS in the UK live in areas where there are not enough MS nurses to look after everyone. Our mapping access to MS nursing work, completed as part of our MS Forward View project, highlights where MS nurses are needed most, providing the focus for the Specialist Nurse Programme.

The Specialist Nurse Programme will offer a package of support to participating MS teams which includes:

  • 80% of the initial funding for the first 15 months for a permanent MS specialist nurse post (after which time the NHS Trust will take over this cost) 
  • accredited training through the MS Trust's MS Specialist foundation training
  • mentorship for the post-holder from our Specialist Nurse Programme Manager   
  • support for the whole MS team in improving and developing the service, and collecting data about the service using the tools developed in the MS Trust’s highly regarded GEMSS programme.

The programme began in October 2016 and is currently in its pilot phase (2016-18). We are already working with other prospective sites and will use the findings and feedback from this year’s teams to inform our future work.

How does it work?

The MS Trust will approach teams who have been identified as having greatest need in terms of MS specialist nurse provision in the UK, and work with them to determine whether or not they would benefit from the programme. Teams will then be invited to apply and the programme’s funding panel will make the final decision.

Teams who are facing particular shortages are also encouraged to get in touch themselves, if they feel they could benefit from the Specialist Nurse Programme. If you are experiencing significant staff shortages in your team, or your circumstances have changed since our mapping access to MS nursing exercise in 2016, feel free to get in touch with the programme staff at to discuss your situation and your potential involvement.

The MS Trust will then work collaboratively with the team and its NHS Trust to recruit an MS nurse and establish a permanent contract for the new member of the team.

For the first 15 months, the MS Trust will fund 80% of the new nurse’s post, with the remaining 20% covered by the NHS Trust (who will take on the full cost after the 15-month period). During this time, the MS Trust will provide training and mentorship, and support the whole team to improve their service and increase their capacity.

Progress of the programme so far

In February 2017, we announced we would be working with the MS team based in Leicester who were the first team to be involved in the programme.

Allison Smith, MS nurse, explained how she hoped they would benefit:

We’re hoping the new nurses will help us see more people in the community, [and] set up community clinics, which would be invaluable. We have lots of people on the outskirts of the county who can’t come to the central hub in Leicester, they would struggle to get to clinic appointments.

We are pleased to say the Leicester MS service was also successful in submitting a case for a second new nurse, employed by University Hospitals Leicester, and two new MS nurses started in post in June 2017. The MS Trust is funding one of the posts for 15 months as part of the Specialist Nurse Programme, but supporting both nurses in their professional development, and helping the whole team evaluate and develop their service. The new nurses completed the MS Trust foundation training course in September 2017, and attended the MS Trust annual conference for health professionals in November. 

Jon Maisey, one of the new nurses in Leicester says:

The Specialist Nurse Programme has been invaluable in helping me develop into a Nurse Specialist. The support and guidance that I have received has given me the knowledge and confidence required to make a real positive impact on the lives of people suffering from multiple sclerosis.

In April 2017, the MS Trust marked MS Awareness Week by confirming the second collaboration of the Specialist Nurse Programme – with Bradford Teaching Hospitals. A Band 7 specialist nurse was recruited to the role, and started in post in November 2017. The MS Trust Specialist Nurse Programme team is supporting the new nurse and the whole team with professional and service development.

Throughout 2017 we have been working with NHS Lanarkshire to improve access to MS specialist nursing in the area and we're pleased to involve the service in the Specialist Nurse Programme. The MS Trust and NHS Lanarkshire have worked together to successfully bid for an additional MS nurse for their service. NHS Lanarkshire also put in a bid to the Health board for extra funding and have appointed a neurology specialist nurse who will cover MS and Parkinson’s. So three new nurses started in post in October 2017 and are all receiving support from the MS Trust with their learning, professional development, and with service development.

The MS Trust is already working with a further six sites into 2018 to continue the work to ensure that no one has to face MS alone. We will announce these sites in due course, and look forward to updating our supporters on our progress, and on the difference made by this vital programme to people with MS. 

Interested in getting involved? Find out how you can support the Specialist Nurse Programme

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