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Scottish specialist nurse to receive national scholarship for motor neurone disease

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A specialist nurse has been named as one of the first two recipients of a scholarship fund set up in memory of motor neurone disease (MND) campaigner Gordon Aikman.

Scottish health secretary Shona Robison announced funding of £25,000 last year for the Gordon Aikman scholarship, which was then matched by the charity MND Scotland.

“This scholarship is no doubt the biggest challenge of my 30-year nursing career”

Alison Clarke

Alison Clarke, lead clinical nurse specialist in the long-term ventilation service at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, has been announced as one of the first two recipients.

The other recipient named on Saturday is Dianne Fraser, clinical specialist for motor neurone disease in the neurology department at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

They will both receive grants to research and develop practical improvements in the way people with MND are cared for.

Mr Aikman, political researcher and campaigner, was diagnosed with MND at the age of 29 and died last year at the age of 31, after raising around £550,000 for research into the condition.

Notably, Mr Aikman successfully lobbied ministers to double the number of MND nurses in Scotland and also secured their funding via the NHS – a move that has “transformed” care, according to the Scottish government.

“I look forward to hearing what Alison and Dianne achieve”

Shona Robison

He also helped to secure legislation placing a legal duty on the NHS to provide equipment and support to people who lose their voices through conditions like MND.

In addition, he helped successfully campaign for carers to be paid the “living wage”. In 2015, he received a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

Ms Robison said: “I’m really pleased to confirm that Alison Clarke and Dianne Fraser are the recipients of the scholarships in Gordon Aikman’s name.

“Gordon valued the relationships that he formed with all those involved in his care, including professionals,” she said.

“He was constantly striving to seek out treatments and approaches that would improve the quality of his own and other people’s lives, and the scholarships aim to build on that – I look forward to hearing what Alison and Dianne achieve,” she added.

Speaking on her scholarship, Ms Clarke said she would be working to share evidence-based research on respiratory and ventilation services across Scotland, with the aim of improving current practise.


Shona Robison

Shona Robison

She said: “This scholarship is no doubt the biggest challenge of my 30-year nursing career, but I feel very privileged to have been awarded the research grant.

“It was Gordon’s legacy to provide the best possible care for patients with MND in Scotland,” she said. “This project means I can share evidence-based research across respiratory/ventilation services throughout Scotland with the aim to change our current practices.”

Meanwhile, Ms Fraser has been using a treatment technique called breath stacking with an adapted ambu bag, which costs only £32.

It reduces distress when choking occurs, keeps the lungs elastic and healthy and may reduce hospital admissions.

She said: “Currently there are only a few patients being taught this technique in North Scotland. This scholarship will mean I can complete in depth research with the ultimate aim of every appropriate patient in Scotland being offered this simple technique.”

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