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How the MS Trust's conference will help me help people with MS

This year's MS Trust conference, which ran from 8–10 November 2015, was the biggest and best yet, with over 350 MS health professionals getting the opportunity to to catch up on the latest research, find out about the latest developments in symptom management and discuss how they can deliver an even better service for people living with MS. This year was the first conference for Harriet Simpson, a senior physiotherapist in Nottinghamshire. She told us what she got out of the event, and how she thinks it will make a difference to her work

photo of Harriet SimpsonHow does your work involve people with MS?

I am a physiotherapist working in a community therapy team in an area where there is a lack of specialist community neuro therapy team. Therefore, anyone who has MS, needs physiotherapy and cannot get into a clinic will be referred to our service.  I do not have daily contact with people with MS, but we certainly get a significant number of referrals (especially elderly people with co-morbidities).

How did you hear about the MS Trust conference?

I have always enjoyed neurological physiotherapy and feel it is important to keep myself skilled in this area of physiotherapy. My team leader e-mailed me a conference flyer as she was aware of my personal interest and encouraged me to apply for the MS Trust Bursary.

Were you aware of the MS Trust before?

I had certainly heard of the MS Trust, but was not aware of the size of the organisation/amount of research that they support.

Why did you decide to attend?

Working in the NHS,  these opportunities do not come along very often and the focus is often on managing waiting lists and throughput of caseload. I saw the MS Trust conference as a fantastic opportunity to be taught by experts in the field and to update my knowledge/clinical skills to apply this to any MS service users that I treat (and improve the quality of care received and their personal experience). I also saw it as an opportunity to share knowledge with the wider therapy team and pass on any knowledge/skills to my colleagues.

What did you think you would get out of it?

Specific expert physiotherapy information and treatment approaches, but also a wider knowledge of the recent advances in medical management of MS (DMDs and stem cell research).

 Were there any sessions you particularly wanted to attend?

Yes definitely – the “Accidental Falls in MS: problems,  practicalities and possibilities” seminar by Hilary Gunn and “Tremor, vertigo and dizziness in MS” by Dr Lisa Bunn.

What were your first impressions of arriving at the site?

What a lovely hotel and setting!  And also how well organised the event was – smooth process to register on arrival and lots of helpful people around.

How did you find the plenary sessions and seminars?

All fantastic and pitched at the perfect level for my clinical role. The plenary sessions were great as they covered topics that I would not necessarily have thought about, but as they were available for everyone to attend, I picked up some very insightful and useful information. The seminars were great as had the option to attend the ones most specific to my role as a physiotherapist.

Did you have chance to network with colleagues?

Yes – constantly! I met some wonderful therapists and specialist MS nurses who are clearly all so passionate about their jobs and the work they do.

What were the top three things you learned at the conference?

  1. How positive the future is looking for people with MS in terms of advances in DMDs and stem cell research
  2. Really enjoyed hearing about the GEMSS project and the strong proof of the positive impact specialist MS nurses and therapists have on the lives of people with MS (and how much need there is for commissioning of more specialist neurological services in the primary care setting)
  3. Specific to physiotherapy, learnt so much about the different approach needed towards  accidental falls in people with MS compared to other fallers (from Hilary Gunn’s seminar)

Did anything surprise you?

When Trent Whiddon  and his wife Gordana from Strictly Come Dancing danced for us at the conference gala dinner! Although the main star of the show was Trishna Bharadia who won The People’s Strictly who gave an inspiring speech.

Are you glad you attended?

Without a doubt!

How will the conference make a difference to your work?

I will certainly be adapting my therapy approach to the service users with MS (particularly in relation to falls and balance rehab.) and will also be more confident in discussing current medical advances in MS with service users if they ask. I plan on running a couple of teaching sessions for my colleagues to share any new and relevant information learnt. Also, I am now much more aware of the current websites, support networks and tools available to people with MS (MS Decisions, Shift.ms etc) and will be sharing these with service users.

What would you say to someone thinking about going to next year’s event?

Don’t think about it, just go! You will learn so much and meet so many wonderful and inspiring people.