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MS nursing ‘significantly under-resourced’, report finds

MS nursing ‘significantly under-resourced’, report finds

Multiple sclerosis specialist nurses are significantly under-resourced, which means they often cannot deliver vital work such as home visits, a charity has warned.

The Multiple Sclerosis Trust (MS Trust) found a 50% increase in the MS nurse workforce – equivalent to an extra 149 whole-time equivalent (WTE) staff – is needed to deliver sustainable workloads, based on a survey published yesterday of 133 services and 176 MS professionals in the UK in August 2021.

Although the number of WTE MS nurses rose from 250 in 2018 to 298 in the latest survey, caseloads are rising even faster – up from 379 per WTE in 2018 to 472 per WTE, while the recommended caseload is 315.

Around a third of MS specialist nurse services across the country are unable to provide either home visits or ward visits (36% and 33%, respectively), while 15 sites (12%) are unable to offer both, it found.

‘No one should manage MS alone’

The report called upon MS specialist nurse team leads, commissioners and directorate managers to consider upscaling services, arguing that the cost of training hiring more MS nurses will be offset because of the ‘resulting reduction in the use of unscheduled care and emergency services’.

It also said services need more administrative support – to manage letters and referrals – with 18% of MS specialist nursing teams reporting that they have no administrative support at all. It recommended the equivalent of 0.6 WTE administrative support staff for each MS nurse.

The report noted: ‘There remains a lot of work to be done to ensure that everyone living with MS has access to the specialist care and support they need at the right time and in the right place. The MS Trust is working hard to ensure that no one has to manage MS alone.’

MS specialist nurses – who can often act as part of the community nursing team – are the main point of contact for a person with MS, according to the charity.

The report comes after the RCN published data this month suggesting that shortages in the nursing workforce were compromising patient care even before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

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