The impact of Covid-19 on MS services and indeed, the whole NHS, has been unparalleled. Whilst we know that MS nurses and therapists have worked incredibly hard to adapt to these challenges and provide a service for people with MS, we also know that many more resources are urgently required. So earlier this year we were delighted to restart our specialist nurse and advanced MS champion programmes.
The aim of the programmes, which had to be paused during the pandemic, is to support the recruitment of additional nurses and therapists in the areas with the greatest need. We work with NHS organisations across the UK, to promote the importance of MS specialist health carers. The specialist nurse programme operates by offering the NHS a support package which includes funding 80% of the nurse's role for the first 15 months in post, at which point it is possible to prove the value of the new role. The programme also includes accredited training courses run by the MS Trust to educate all MS health professionals. The objective is to ensure that everyone living with MS has access to the support they need.
We restarted the specialist nurse programme in April and were delighted to finalise an agreement to support the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool, with an additional MS nurse who started this July. Michelle Cole will work with the existing MS team covering the North Wales region.
The MS Trust is also pleased to have restarted the advanced MS champion programme following a very successful pilot of six sites. An advanced MS champion helps people living with advanced MS to navigate a system that can be very complicated. They provide specialist knowledge, bridge the gap between health and social services and provide continuous, stable access to health services. Our recent campaign on Advancing MS Care provides more information on ways you can support this initiative. With more than 40,000 people living with advanced MS in the UK, this lack of access to healthcare cannot continue.
Everyone with MS should have access to specialist nurses and therapists to help manage their personal treatment plans, receive regular reviews, for general support and advice. We plan to place two more MS nurses during 2021, we also plan to undertake our biannual mapping of MS services across the United Kingdom. This enables us to support our Enquiry Service with an up-to-date map of where the services are and who works there. The data collected helps us prioritise the areas of highest unmet need, so when we plan our programmes we can be sure that we are starting with those areas where there is currently little or no access to nurses and therapists.
We are acutely aware that the path to addressing overstretched nurses and therapists, along with increasing waiting lists, is a long one. We are endeavouring to support the centres we work with to implement more sustainable solutions which will tackle these issues over the long term. Through our education programmes we will continue to train, support and mentor nurses and therapists in multiple sclerosis to support every person with MS, whichever stage of their journey they are on.