Victory for campaigners as MS Nurse to be appointed

An MS Nurse will be appointed in the Western Isles after the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society and NHS Western Isles agreed funding arrangements for the post.

As a result of continued discussions between NHS Western Isles and the MS Society over recent months, the MS Society has agreed to fund a full time MS Nurse for nine months, on the understanding that NHS Western Isles will continue to fund a post.

Whilst previous efforts to specifically fund a post had failed – including approaches to the Scottish Government – the Health Board and charitable organisation have been working in partnership for a considerable time on possible ways to resolve the situation.

MS Society Service Development Manager Andrew Johnston said: “This post means that we return to the situation of having an MS specialist in every territorial Health Board in Scotland. The MS Society believes that specialist posts both create a better quality of care and are cost effective. The post is particularly important in Western Isles not only because of the number of people affected by MS but also because of the distance from the tertiary centre where there are other neurology services. It will provide an excellent opportunity to open up the development of telehealth for this group of patients.

“The funding agreement represents detailed negotiations between the MS Society and NHS Western Isles and demonstrates the potential of partnership working between the voluntary and statutory sectors.”

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson said: “With more than 80 people in the Western Isles diagnosed with MS, NHS Western Isles recognises how beneficial it will be for these individuals and their carers/families to have the support and care provided by a specialist nurse to promote symptom management, gain psychological support and to be empowered to self manage their condition. This will provide a timely and responsive service, enhancing continuity of care.”

He added: “We are delighted to have been able to successfully work in partnership with the MS Society to be able to develop this service. Whilst the decision has been a long time in coming, we believe it is the right way forward and the best support we can offer to MS patients in the Western Isles.”

Local campaigner for an MS Nurse, and treasurer of the MS Society (Western Isles branch), Christine Stewart, said: “I am absolutely delighted for all the MS sufferers in the Western Isles. At long last they will be given the care and attention they deserve on their own home ground, and a nurse who knows exactly what he/she is talking about when it comes to MS. The difference this is going to make for all those people will be huge.”

Mrs Stewart, who was nominated as one this year’s ‘Local Heroes’ by Rhoda Grant MSP, as a result of her contribution towards the campaign for an MS Nurse, also stressed that the new MS Nurse will have knowledge of disease modifying drugs, and this will also make a huge difference to people in the Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles also currently continues to progress with plans to further develop local neurological services for the wide range of neurological conditions, which will involve investment in training for staff, and the development of an Obligate Network with a mainland Board for specialist support.

Welcoming the news, Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said: “Today’s news that NHS Western Isles and the MS Society have agreed on funding arrangements for an MS nurse to be appointed in the Western Isles will be warmly welcomed by all who have long campaigned on this issue. This is a subject which I have regularly raised with NHS Western Isles, given that we have one of the highest incidences of this condition anywhere in Scotland, but have until now lacked this basic service for patients.

“All those in the islands who have campaigned on this subject are to be congratulated for their efforts and I now look forward to a positive cooperation between the MS Society and the NHS to ensure that people with MS in the Western Isles get the care and advise that they clearly deserve.”