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OPINION

Alan Izat: ‘Coordinated patient care is the only way to save the NHS’

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With specialist posts under threat, Alan Izat explores what that means for patient care

We’re a long way from “doctor knows best” and today medicine and treatment is very much focused on patient involvement, shared decision making and self-management.

I have been working for the NHS for 32 years and as a registered specialist multiple sclerosis nurse for 10 years. It can be a real pleasure working with patients who feel informed and empowered enough to share the decision making when it comes to their care – but patients can only do this if they have access to enough specialist information and support, and the right encouragement, too.

In April the MS Society released results of a survey they’d conducted with more than 10,000 people with MS from across the UK. They found patients were more likely to receive treatments if they had access to an MS nurse, a neurologist and the right information – no surprise there. But, one in five people responding to the survey said they rarely, or never, found it easy to see a health professional when they needed to – and here lies the problem.

“Evidence shows that timely access to specialists reduces the distress of unnecessary hospital admissions, reduces the number of inpatient days, and optimises safe early discharge to primary care”

There are more than 200 specialist MS nurses across the UK – the role has developed over the past 15 years to offer a high level of support, advice and information to people with MS. By working with other health professionals and providers, we ensure people receive the appropriate, joined-up, personalised care they require.

In recent years though, the financial climate has meant the role of MS nurses is becoming increasingly under threat. Roles are being lost to redundancy, left vacant or changed to part-time or generic nursing posts; it’s not acceptable.

Evidence shows that timely access to specialists reduces the distress of unnecessary hospital admissions, reduces the number of inpatient days, and optimises safe early discharge to primary care.

When they released their report, the MS Society called for every individual with MS to receive a personalised treatment, care and support plan, with comprehensive reviews of this plan – led by a MS specialist and in addition to other appointments made at the point of need – twice a year.

I support this goal; at the very least patients whose condition is considered “stable” should receive a yearly review.

If we’re to save the NHS money then cutting MS nursing posts is not the answer; coordinated care pathways, strategies to prevent hospital admissions and informed patient decision making is the way forward.

Alan Izat is co-chair of the UK MS Specialist Nurse Association

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