A report on the state of specialist nursing for multiple sclerosis has revealed a shortfall of about 200 nurses.
The report, published this week by the MS Trust, found there are around 245 MS specialist nurses in the UK, with wide variation in availability between the four nations.
“The report gives us important information to help plan for the future of MS services”
While MS nursing has grown steadily over the past 20 years, the report found a clear shortfall of specialist nurses. The charity concluded that between 126 and 214 more posts were needed to ensure acceptable caseloads.
Currently there are around 550 people with MS per specialist nurse, but this should be more like 300, it said.
The charity found the lowest level of specialist availability was in England, where more than 40% of MS nurses covered three or more clinical commissioning groups.
This compared to specialist nurses in Scotland who generally only covered one health board.
Almost all – 97% – MS specialist nurses responded to the survey that formed the basis of the MS Trust report and which was carried out from March to April this year.
Most nurses – 87% – were solely funded by the NHS with only 18 posts funded by charities or pharmaceutical companies.
The survey also asked nurses where they saw patients. More than 70% said they saw people in more than one setting.
Meanwhile, 60% of MS nurses employed in hospitals said they also saw patients in their own homes while 64% of community nurses said they also saw patients in hospital.
“The report gives us important information to help plan for the future of MS services and demonstrates how vital the right commissioning and funding is,” said Amy Bowen, director of service development at the MS Trust.
The charity said it would be carrying out further research to explore the challenges facing MS nurses and analyse regional variations in MS services.
“The report strengthens the case for continued focus on the availability of MS nurses”
Its research was welcomed by the Royal College of Nursing. RCN long term conditions adviser Amanda Cheesley said: “This report is much needed.
“We thank the MS Trust and all of the MS nurses who responded, as it provides not only important information about the current situation, but strengthens the case for continued focus on the availability of MS nurses across the NHS,” she said.
The report comes ahead of revised National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines on MS services, which are expected later this year.