A number of our members have written to Stephen Eames CEO North Cumbria Hospitals Trust and Cumbria Partnership Trust about their concerns to protect MS Services in Cumbria.
This is a typical letter:
“I am contacting you in connection with the Cumbria MS Nurse Service, which at present is at severe risk.
Two out of three of the band & MS Specialist nurses in Cumbria are presently working their notice periods after resigning. The third nurse is due to retire this year, which potentially will leave no MS Nurse Services across Cumbria.
There are estimated to be 820 people with a diagnosis of MS in Cumbria and a further 50 people diagnosed every year, to have no MS Nurse Service to support with symptom management and the ongoing prescribing and monitoring of disease modifying treatments would be unacceptable and dangerous.
I would be grateful if you could reply to answer the following questions:-
- What are the recruitment and succession plans to guarantee the MS Service continues across Cumbria, ensuring that patients do not experience a decline in the high quality of service?
- How can people affected by MS (your patients), be involved in shaping and influencing the service to ensure caseload, pathways and clinical support is improved? This will support the retention of the new MS Nurses.
- Does Cumbria NHS Partnership Trust presently have any plans to strengthen its Neurosciences division, which will support stability for the MS Nurse service?
MS is a complex condition, requiring personalised support throughout its progression. Individuals experience a wide range of symptoms at different times, making it unpredictable and the need for specialist support invaluable. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the present three nurses, whose skill, knowledge and compassion have supported many people affected by MS to an exceptionally high standard. They are going to be a great loss to Cumbria’s MS Community and Cumbria NHS Partnership Trust.”
We are pleased that the following response was sent from Fiona Dixon on 19th March and that a local member of the MS Society assisted last week with the interviews for new staff:
“Many thanks for taking the time to write to me in connection with the provision of MS care in Cumbria. We have also been contacted by Angie Stewart from the MS Society and have provided her with the following responses to the questions you have raised in your email dated 18/03/18
What are the recruitment and succession plans to guarantee the MS Nurse Service continues across Cumbria, ensuring that patients do not experience a decline in the high quality of service?
As a Trust we have been aware of the need to look at MS staff succession planning, and with this in mind, we were able to recruit a bank nurse who is an experienced MS clinician who has been working alongside the existing Band Seven Nurse in the South. We are very hopeful that she will apply for the substantive post and be successful. We have also been reviewing skill mix and are looking to recruit two part time staff for the South which will give the staffing resource more resilience as opposed to the single member of staff we presently rely upon. The advert for the replacement post is already published.
In the North, we have been working hard to develop one of the existing band six Nurses with a view to succession planning, and she has participated in relevant training over the last twelve months. It is hoped that she will apply and be successful in obtaining one of the, soon to be vacant, posts. The current advert also includes the option for a band six development post which would work alongside the remaining band seven until she retires in October time. This will provide increased capacity during this period of transition. We are also looking to support the Consultant Neurologist, through a Job Plan review, to allow him greater opportunity to provide support to newly appointed staff, as they settle into their new roles.
How can people affected by MS (your patients), be involved in shaping and influencing the service to ensure caseload, pathways and clinical support is improved? This will support the retention of the new MS Nurses.
We have a policy of co-production in respect of any significant planning processes or service changes in respect of all our services. With regard to the recruitment to the vacancies described above, we have already contacted the MS Society and asked for representatives to join us for the interview process.
In addition, we are reviewing how we can make the MS service more sustainable going forward and are planning to meet with the Consultant Neurologist and the existing MS Nurse team to look at how we might best manage the increasing demands on the service. Any significant proposed changes to the configuration of the service, or MS pathways, will be shared with the Neuro Alliance meeting for advice, consideration and comment.
Does Cumbria NHS Partnership Trust presently have any plans to strengthen its Neurosciences division, which will support stability for the MS Nurse service?
Work is underway with our Commissioners regarding how the MS service should be commissioned and provided in the future; to ensure it is stable, resilient and meets the needs of the local population. These discussions involve closer linkage with the relevant tertiary providers and we are in the early stages of these discussions at the moment. Regular updates will continue to be shared at Neuro Alliance meetings.
I would like to thank you for raising your concerns directly with us and I hope my letter provides a satisfactory response to the issues you have raised.
Senior Network Manager, Autism Diagnostic Service; Acquired Brain Injury Service; Booking Centre & Neurosciences Service”
Thanks Fiona for working closely with the Alliance and our members to ensure robust services in Cumbria!