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“A truly remarkable lady”

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Margaret ToppingIn the lead up to MS Awareness Week 2013, which runs from 29 April–5 May, we’re  focusing on some of the people who are contenders to become this year’s MS Super Nurse. This week we spoke to Margaret Topping, who’s the specialist MS nurse at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. “Margaret is a truly remarkable lady,” said one of the people who nominated her. “She is supportive, caring and always there to help and advise me. Her commitment and dedication deserves recognition.”

How does it feel to be nominated as an MS Super Nurse?

Wow, it’s really appreciated and at the same time it’s very humbling. It is a huge privilege to work with people with MS and their families

How did you come to be an MS nurse?

I was coordinating acute stroke services as part of a multidisciplinary team in an acute hospital when I was approached by some colleagues. The opportunity to work as an MS specialist in the community was a challenge I was keen to take on. I feel very passionate about the role and I strive to work with other professionals and the voluntary sector to support people with MS.

How many people do you work with?

In theory I’m a lone worker but I have access to, and work with, many committed and great health professionals, volunteers and the multidisciplinary team staff, including an occupational therapist who specialises in MS. I have just over 400 people with MS and their families on my books. People can make contact either by texting, telephone or email.

What area do you cover?

North Hampshire, so that’s the Basingstoke and Alton areas plus surrounding villages.

How do you help people?

I see people who are newly diagnosed right through their individual journeys. I provide advice, education, training and support for people with MS and I provide education programmes for healthcare workers and try to share my knowledge. I work very closely with GPs in trying to provide a seamless service for people with MS.

Has your role changed since you started?

Yes, I’m doing a lot more clinics. I’m starting to do clinics in GP surgeries and the GPs are very welcoming and keen to learn more. I’m doing a lot of partnership working with the local MS Society support team, and the adult services team, involving home visits and education. I’ve been very fortunate to have had so much flexibility in developing local MS issues. I’ve been fully supported by management, neurologists, GPs and people with MS and their families. Long may this continue as there is great progress in the medication and research of MS at the moment.

These days many MS nurses find their funding is increasingly under threat. Do you feel any pressure to demonstrate your impact?

I believe in the current climate there is enough evidence to indicate that a specialist MS service has been long overdue. With the increasing population there is an increase in neurological conditions, which means we need to have specialist nurses to provide support and to work as the missing link between GPs and other medical staff.

What difference has the MS Trust made to you?

The support the MS Trust provides is invaluable: the conferences, the training and education days throughout the year, all the valuable networking I get to be a part of. There is always someone at the end of the phone if I need them, which means so much. The website and all the publications are also truly great assets. The MS Trust do amazing work I am very proud to be linked with them.

Will you be doing anything for MS Awareness Week?

I’ll be putting up posters in various places to raise awareness as much as possible

What inspires you?

The people and their families that I work with truly inspire me. So does the great work and support of my MS colleagues: the healthcare professionals, the adult services and the voluntary sector.