NHS Western Isles Health Protection and Screening Nurse Specialist, Isabell MacInnes, has been announced as one of just 150 recipients of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship for 2018.
These 150 Fellows from across the UK include people from all walks of life, researching topics across a broad range of sectors, from housing to nursing, science to education.
They were selected from over 1,000 applicants. Together they will receive grants totaling over £1million and will travel to 48 countries across six continents.
Mrs MacInnes, from South Uist, has been awarded a Travelling Fellowship, supported by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, to visit the U.S.A., Canada and France.
The award allows her to further research interventions used to tackle the challenges associated with tick prevalence and the increase of Lyme Borreliosis.
Lyme disease is a tick borne disease, increasingly recognised in the UK and actions for prevention, control and treatment are essential to reduce the impact.
Mrs MacInnes explained: “The primary aim of my project is to explore the opportunities and messages used for raising awareness of Lyme Borreliosis and the interventions used to reduce the risks and assess their applicability to our local context.
“Although my interest is in the Western Isles, where we have among the highest rates of Lyme disease in the UK, it is recognised there is a continuing rise in cases of Lyme disease nationally in Scotland and the UK as a whole, giving an indication of the lack of awareness in the population.
“Engaging relevant agencies is important to improve prevention and awareness raising. Alongside better tick control measures, this will result in fewer people becoming infected and living with the consequences of this poorly recognised condition.”
Mrs MacInnes confirmed that any knowledge gained through the Fellowship will be shared widely; finding out what strategies have worked and not worked, is imperative to encourage the UK to progress quickly.
She continued: “In the UK there is no structured surveillance of Lyme disease; this reduces the effectiveness of the prevention and control programmes.
“Surveillance could provide information on place of exposure and the risk and behaviours of those exposed, giving a more accurate picture of the burden of disease.
“From this project, I expect to have the opportunity to see surveillance tools used in other countries and adapt these tools to suit our local needs.
“I also plan to find out about the diagnosis and treatment of people who have contracted Lyme disease.
“This would include the management and support given to those who have chronic symptoms of Lyme disease.”
NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts, stated: “We are delighted that Isabell MacInnes has been selected as one of this year’s Churchill Fellows, giving her the opportunity to visit countries leading on various aspects of Lyme disease reduction, and to investigate strategies for tackling Lyme disease.
“We look forward to hearing about her travels and working together to apply the learning she has gained to help us better manage this poorly recognised condition, both in the Western Isles and further afield.”