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Charity aims to encourage more nurses to specialise in IBD as patient demand increases

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A charity has launched an online resource designed to encourage more general nurses to specialise in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), amid rising numbers of patients and a shortage of expert help.

The new resource, launched by Crohn’s and Colitis UK, features information and advice on how to become an IBD specialist nurse as well as guidance on setting up an IBD team.

“The availability of IBD nurse specialists across the UK is vital for people living with IBD”

Isobel Mason

The charity said it was vital to boost the number of specialist nurses working in the field to ensure all patients received optimum care.

According to a survey carried out by the organisation last year, one in three people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis do not have access to a specialist nurse.

However, research has shown that specialist nurses can make all the difference to IBD patients by helping them understand their condition, manage symptoms, make key treatment decisions and avoid the need for emergency care.

At least 300,000 people in the UK have Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis – and numbers are rising – with lifetime medical costs associated with IBD comparable to diabetes and cancer, noted the charity.

While the number of IBD nurse specialists was increasing across the UK, the charity said only a tiny minority of IBD nursing teams – just 2% – had the recommended minimum number of nurses.

Meanwhile, nearly two thirds – 63% – of IBD specialist nurses report higher than recommended caseloads, warned Crohn’s and Colitis UK.

“Consequently, services are often suspended in the nurse’s absence, nurses are contributing significant unpaid overtime to meet demand, and patients are not receiving the high quality service that IBD nurses can deliver,” it said.

“I think this new resource will benefit so many healthcare professionals”

Isobel Mason

The charity said its new web resource aimed to give nurses “the tools, support and encouragement” to move into the specialism and develop services.

As well as information on career pathways, the site features an “IBD nurse map” to help locate IBD nurses and a “nurses’ hub” to link up IBD nurses with each other.

Isobel Mason, head of service development for IBD nurses at Crohn’s and Colitis UK, hoped the site would help improve the quality of care.

“The availability of IBD nurse specialists across the UK is vital for people living with IBD to be able to access responsive health services and improved clinical outcomes,” she said.

“Specialist IBD nurses play a fundamental role in delivering high quality patient care and experience, lead patient centred service redesign, improve the quality of care and represent excellent value for money,” she noted.

She added: “I think this new resource will benefit so many healthcare professionals and help to improve the quality of care for all of those with IBD.”

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