The MS Trust has announced that Leicester and Bradford are the first sites chosen for its multiple sclerosis specialist nurse funding programme, which aims to help improve access to targeted support in areas of the country where there is the highest level of unmet need.

According to research by the charity, 64 percent of people with MS in the UK - around 68,000 people - live in areas where there aren’t enough MS nurses to provide vital care. In some areas, more than 760 people share access to a single full-time specialist nurse, and are thus missing out on expert information and decision support.

Not only do specialist nurses help people proactively manage their MS symptoms but they also respond to acute deteriorations and relapses, and can help prevent secondary complications which can be disabling or life threatening and result in unscheduled care, such as A&E attendances, hospital admissions or out of hours GP calls, it says.

To help address these huge gaps in capacity, the MS Trust has launched a programme offering to help recruit specialist MS nurses and fund 80 percent of the related cost for the first 15 months (with the remainder to be covered by the NHS Trust), as well as provide training and mentorship to help improve services.

Recruitment for new nurses at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and at Bradford Teaching Hospitals “is now well underway”, and it is hoped that new nurses will be in post by the end of summer 2017. The sites were chosen as they were able to pull together a strong application and had full support from their NHS Trusts, a spokesperson for the charity said.

The MS Trust is now working with a range of additional sites across the UK that its research has identified as being in particular need of new nurses, and hopes to name up to six further new posts over the next 12 months.

“At the MS Trust we believe that MS nurses play a vital role in helping people deal with the shock of diagnosis and can help them adjust to, and manage, life with MS,” said chief executive Pam Macfarlane.

“Our research shows that too many people are going without this specialist support - either they have no MS nurse near them, or their nurse is having to manage a caseload far in excess of the recommended sustainable number. This can have grave consequences for people with MS. They may have to rely on non-specialist support for what is a highly complex disease. And they may have to resort to using A&E services if their symptoms become worse.

“We have mapped services across the UK and highlighted the areas in greatest need. Now we are determined to fund, train and support new MS nurses to make a difference for thousands of people living with MS today.”