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Third of patients with IBD lack access to specialist nurse

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One in three patients with inflammatory bowel disease do not have access to a nurse who is a specialist in the condition, a charity has warned.

A survey conducted by Crohn’s and Colitis UK suggested that 100,000 patients in the UK with IBD do not have access to adequate care.

“It seems inconceivable that these roles need justifying”

Isobel Mason

Of the 6,000 respondents to the survey, 32% said they did not have access to an IBD specialist nurse.

In addition, 80% of respondents without access to a specialist nurse did not know they should have access to one, said the charity, highlighting the information gap that patients need to understand and manage their condition effectively.

It also highlighted recent research showing that six out of 10 IBD services in hospitals did not currently meet the recommended standard for the number of IBD nurses necessary to deliver the right level of service and support.

There are at least 300,000 people in the UK living with Crohn’s or Colitis, the two main forms of IBD.

The charity said IBD nurses were “instrumental” in improving the quality of life for patients with the condition, as well as helping to cut significant costs to the NHS.

It cited research showing that IBD nurses helped with a 38% reduction in hospital visits and a 19% reduction in in-patient length of stay for patients with the condition.

Isobel Mason, nurse consultant in gastroenterology at the Royal Free Hospital and IBD nursing development manager at Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said: “It seems inconceivable that these roles need justifying when there is so much evidence of the contribution specialist nurses bring to patient care.

“A return to the dark days when one in four specialist nurses were threatened by redundancy and almost half asked to work outside their specialty in more generic role would be a disaster for everyone affected by chronic conditions,” she said. “More nurses means better care.”

Crohn's and Colitis UK

Third of IBD patients lack specialist nurse access

Ann McMahon

The charity is asking hospital chiefs and IBD teams to work directly with the charity to support the delivery of more specialist nurses locally, as well as working with them to provide new resources that can facilitate job and business planning for health service development.

Dr Ann McMahon, research and innovation manager at the Royal College of Nursing, added: “Specialist IBD Nurses have been praised for the invaluable support and expertise they provide to improve patients’ quality of life, giving them more control over their treatment.

“We would welcome more specialist nurses to reach those who currently don’t have access to the care they deserve,” she said.

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