15 minutes with Megan Roberts, head of Health Professionals Programmes at the MS Trust

16 August 2020

Megan Roberts is the Head of Health Professionals Programmes at the MS Trust, supporting MS health professionals to provide the best possible care for people with MS. We caught up with Megan to find out about the impact of Covid-19 on MS services, how the MS Trust is helping to bridge the gaps in MS care and what she loves most about her role.

What does your role at the MS Trust involve? How has it changed during the current pandemic? 

I work as the Head of Health Professionals Programmes – which is a bit of a mouthful but really means that I work closely with MS health professionals to provide support, training, advice and funding to help them improve services for people with MS. During the pandemic things have changed a little – especially as many of the MS health professionals were redeployed during the peak months of the pandemic. I have been working with them to make sure that there was at least a minimum service available to people with MS throughout and to help them now rebuild their MS services. 

What are the biggest challenges MS services are currently facing and how is the MS Trust helping to support MS teams with these challenges?

 Before the pandemic started we know that many MS teams were under resourced, short staffed and finding it difficult to provide the services they wanted to due to lack of funding. Many MS health professionals were redeployed during the peak of the pandemic and some MS services were put on hold. MS teams are now being released from their re-deployments and are starting to rebuild their MS services and to catch up with all those people with MS who should have had appointments, started treatments or who have had problems over the last few months. There are still too few MS nurses, therapists and neurologists and we at the MS Trust are working hard to support and encourage service growth and development through education, training and funding. 

How do you think Covid-19 will affect the way MS care is delivered going forward? 

I think that in the short term it will continue to be difficult for everyone as services try and catch up with the large backlog of appointments and reviews that have been lost during the crisis. However, as MS services are able to rebuild their services, I think we will see a lot more flexibility with just about every team continuing to offer virtual appointments for routine reviews and monitoring to those who want them. We are also encouraged to hear that some MS teams have been able to reach out to more people with advanced MS through virtual appointments which is enabling a few people to access services which they find difficult to otherwise. 

What is the MS Trust doing to address the gaps in MS services across the UK? 

We continue to support MS health professionals who come to us asking for specific help around service development or training. We are still planning to run our annual Conference and our course for new in post MS health professionals. In addition to training, we have so far funded and supported seven MS nurses in different teams, increasing their capacity and helping them to improve their service provision locally. We have had to put a hold on this programme at the moment due to the pandemic but are planning to pick this up again early next year. We are also piloting six Advanced MS Champion roles around the country which we are funding, supporting and evaluating – we are aiming to publish our report on these roles in summer 2021. 

What would be your advice to someone who doesn’t have access to an MS nurse? 

We know that not everyone has access to an MS nurse and where this isn’t possible then do use your GP. Also remember that whilst there may not be an MS nurse available, there may well be other services such as neurorehabilitation teams or neurology nurses who will also be able to help. The MS Trust Enquiry Service is also always here and able to answer pretty much any questions that you may have – you can email them (ask@mstrust.org.uk) or phone (0800 032 38 39). 

You began your career as an MS nurse, what would be your main piece of advice for someone living with MS? 

I think it would be to make the most of each day we have. There is a phrase used by Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – ‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are - far more than our abilities’ which has always resonated with me. We should each focus on what we can do right now rather than dwelling on what we were able to do in the past and live our lives to the best we can today. I know that’s hard sometimes – and I would be the first to say that I don't always manage to stay positive – but I do find there is usually something which I can find in each day to take pleasure in. 

What do you love most about what you do? 

I love knowing that I am making a difference to MS services and so, through them – to people living with MS. I was an MS nurse for many years so have a good idea of how difficult living with MS can be – anything we can do that helps to make that a little easier is worth doing.