Today the MS Trust launches its #fairMScare campaign, aimed at raising awareness about the desperate shortage of MS nurses in the UK. Latest figures show there are now approximately 130,000 people in the UK with MS, an increase of 21% on previous estimates. For many of these people MS nurses are a lifeline. Yet often people are missing out on the vital care and support these nurses provide, simply because there are not enough nurses to meet the demand.
MS nurses juggle unmanageable caseloads. An MS nurse should have a caseload of 315, yet up to 80% (36,000) of people with MS live in areas where the nurses have caseloads in excess of that number. Of those people, over a quarter live in areas where caseloads are twice the recommended level. This means people with MS are missing out the best possible care, and overstretches diligent nurses.
The MS Trust believe that everyone with MS should have access to an MS specialist nurse. MS nurses are vital for people living with MS. They help them adjust to diagnosis, consider complicated treatment options, manage a wide range of symptoms and learn to live well with an unpredictable, often debilitating, lifelong condition.
MS nurses also save the NHS money. Emerging findings from the MS Trust’s specialist nurse programme demonstrate that each nurse that the MS Trust funds saves an average of £72k, in fewer hospital admissions, visits to A&E, neurologists and GPs. With clear benefits to those with MS as well as the NHS, the MS Trust is working hard to address the shortage of MS nurses. Through its Specialist Nurse Programme, the charity have already funded seven extra nurses in the areas across the UK that need them most.
Jenna Chudasama has benefited from this programme, with her nurse Jon Maisey who was the first to be funded by the MS Trust as part of its specialist programme. Jenna was diagnosed with MS aged 22 while studying teaching at university:
“When I met my MS nurse everything started to make sense. I could ask the questions I wanted to: What is MS? How is it going to affect me and my life? I left my first appointment thinking, ‘I can do this. Yes I’ve got this condition, but I can deal with it.”
“I’m a natural worrier and I need answers to my questions, or they will just fester in my mind and that’s where Jon comes in. Whether it’s having issues with a DVLA application or concerns about my holiday, Jon is able to give me an answer instantly, and if not, he calls back when he does have the information.”
“I am so grateful, and I have always felt so blessed that I have a nurse who is constantly there to support me in every way. It’s worrying for me to know some areas don’t have that support. I can’t imagine not having Jon to contact.”
Jenna describes Jon’s support as ‘invaluable’.
The MS Trust estimates that up to 115 new specialist nurses are needed to truly address the postcode lottery, and to ensure everyone living with MS in the UK can access the specialist support and care they need to live well with the condition.
David Martin, CEO at the MS Trust, commented: “MS specialist nurses do a fantastic job, but they are coming under increasing pressure to deliver the same exceptional level of care while taking on more and more patients. As a result, we know that many people with MS are missing out on the specialist support they need and deserve.
“This is simply not right or fair. We’ve launched our new campaign to highlight this desperate shortage of MS nurses across the UK, and we now call on the government and health ministers to work with us to ensure people with MS are not left to manage their MS alone.”