Recently, the MS Trust was delighted to announce that we have funded an additional MS nurse to cover north Wales, through the Walton Centre, Liverpool, as part of our Specialist Nurse Programme. We chatted to Michelle and her fellow MS Nurse, Yvonne, about the difference the new role will make and what their priorities are for the service in north Wales.
How are you settling into your new role?
Michelle: It's going really well. I've got a really supportive team. Yvonne is brilliant, she's extremely knowledgeable and patient with me. There is a lot to learn, but I’m doing that gradually. It’s a really interesting role and I’m learning a lot.
What difference do you think the role will make for people with MS in north Wales?
Yvonne: I think Michelle's contribution will definitely enhance the service. We’ll have increased capacity, which has always been a huge issue for us in north Wales. Patients will have more timely access to the service and we're going to reduce those waiting lists, which have always been such a significant problem. We’re going to be more responsive too. I think people are going to really appreciate the extra resource.
Now Michelle is on board, what are the priorities for the service over the next six months to a year?
Yvonne: As far as the priorities go, it's about getting those waiting lists down as I mentioned, making sure that we're more accessible to patients and that we’re responding to patients in a more timely way. So, when they need us, they can get hold of us, hopefully by the next working day. We need to be responsive to patients who are struggling with changing symptoms, or relapses; and to be available for newly diagnosed patients as well. Michelle and I have spoken about how it would be really valuable for us to improve our networking with colleagues across north Wales. We want to make sure that we're more visible to other health care professionals; doctors, nurses and allied health professional colleagues; so that they know how to contact us for advice. MS can be misunderstood and we need to help make a difference to improve everyone’s understanding of the condition.
What would you say are the biggest challenges you've got ahead of you?
Michelle: I think mine is obviously the complexity of the disease. If you were to do a mind map of the condition, there’d be branches going off everywhere, but that’s what MS looks like. There are branches about DMDs, relapses, treating symptoms, to name just a few. But it’s also important to remember, if it's complex for us, then imagine the frustration and concerns of the patient.
Yvonne: The changing landscape of MS is challenging. We’ve had several new treatments in recent years. Obviously Covid has also been a challenge and has impacted the whole NHS. Although in a way, there are positives from the pandemic. A couple of years ago, we didn't offer patients routine telephone follow up appointments or video appointments, it was all face to face appointments, but now we have access to the technology and patients have more choice. Lots of patients find the long journey to hospital and the stress of parking can be difficult, but now we have other ways to keep in touch. It’s helped to improve the service and reach more people in a way that’s more convenient for them.
How important do you think the role of the MS nurse is for people with MS?
Michelle: I think it's very important. It's so vital that people with MS have a base to touch in with. Something that the Walton Centre and north Wales offer is their advice line - it can be an absolute lifeline to have someone at the end of the phone.
Yvonne: The MS nurse role supports people from the point of diagnosis right through their lifetime with the condition, as well as their families. The role is crucial because we're involved in all aspects of the condition from helping people to understand their diagnosis, manage their symptoms, make treatment choices and offer guidance along the way. It’s fantastic that we’ve got another MS nurse in north Wales. I’m looking forward to Michelle getting to know all the patients. It's really positive. A huge thank you to the MS Trust for all your support!
For more information on MS services near you visit mstrust.org.uk/map
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