We are all aware of the huge impact the pandemic has had on MS services. Over the last few months Paru Naik, Director of Health Professionals Programmes at the MS Trust has been working tirelessly to get these vital services back up and running. She has also been adapting our support packages to ensure MS health professionals continue to receive the support they need.
What does your role at the MS Trust involve? How has it changed during the current pandemic?
In my role as Director of Health Professionals Programmes at the MS Trust, I work as part of the Senior Management Team for the whole organisation. I have worked in senior NHS roles for many years, but I feel that this is the best opportunity I've had to influence MS services and improve access.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has had a profound effect on MS programmes, as nurses and therapists are stretched and many are redeployed to help combat Covid-19. As a result, our Enquiry Service has seen a huge increase in traffic and we have had to divert our attention to surviving as a charity due to significant losses in our fundraising activities.
MS services across the country have been stretched for many years. How has the pandemic further impacted services?
The pandemic has exposed pre-existing weaknesses, including underinvestment in MS services and healthcare professionals. It also revealed the deep-rooted health inequalities we face, as well as spiralling out of control waiting lists and appointment backlog.
What do you see are the biggest challenges in getting MS services back up and running across the country?
The biggest challenge will be to readjust to ‘the new normal’ and to become comfortable with this. The coordination of MS services is complex and, frankly, almost impossible without increased funding. It will require significant reforms to address the gaps in care for MS patients. We also need to understand the full effect of Covid-19 on MS healthcare services. In the near future, we will be conducting our own mapping exercises to find out exactly what is required. Our healthcare professionals are continuing to work incredibly hard to provide the care that those with MS deserve, and we’re doing all we can to assist them.
How are the MS Trust working to reinstate services following the pandemic? And how are they working to improve services in general?
While the crisis has been challenging, it has also brought innovation and an appetite to permanently change the way MS services work. We will soon be restarting our programmes to place more Specialist Nurses and Advanced MS Champions where they are needed most, and we will be supporting them every step of the way.
We are also determined to keep our education and training services for Specialist MS Nurses and therapists running. In October we were proud to run our MS development educational module via Zoom for the first time and received really positive feedback. Although we had to postpone our annual conference in 2020, we are excited to be holding the very first MS Trust virtual conference from 28 February to the 2 March in 2021. A programme that is as packed and innovative as ever.
What are the key things that need to happen in the coming months to achieve this?
There is no doubt that the road to restarting services post-Covid will be a steep climb. We still have to get through the latest round of restrictions and a workforce that is exhausted and needs support. We need to continue the support that we give to health professionals.
We will do this by keeping up the fight for the resources and tools that are needed. However, we can’t do this without our incredible supporters. A donation to the MS Trust provides the help needed to get MS services back on track during these uncertain times. To get involved, visit: mstrust.org.uk/get-involved
What advice would you give to people with MS who are still struggling to see their MS nurses and neurologists due to the pandemic?
Please know that we are here for you. Even though many services have been devastated by the pandemic, we are doing all we can to help. We have a range of useful information and up to date news at mstrust.org.uk. You can also contact our Enquiry Service on 0800 032 38 39 or firstname.lastname@example.org With so much going on, I would say be persistent in getting through to someone who can help you. This may well be in the form of a virtual telephone call with your GP, family, friends and/or carers. Talk to those who you can raise concerns with and they will help direct you to the right place. In the UK, 130 people are diagnosed with MS every week, and we must do what we can to help them. 40,000 people in the UK are living with advanced MS and require a specialist to help them with their condition. They should not be denied the care that they deserve. No one need be alone when it comes to dealing with MS.
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