MS Trust research was commended in July at the Royal College of Nursing as an example of good practice for demonstrating the impact of public services. Here we look back on the first year of our GEMSS project, and look forward to some exciting developments ahead.
At the MS Trust we believe that one of the best ways to help people with MS is to support their specialist nurses. Since 1996 we’ve been leading the way in campaigning for and supporting their work. We funded the only research project which shows that, as well as being vital to people with MS, MS specialist nurses also save money for the NHS by keeping people out of hospital. We estimate that a single MS specialist nurse, with an average caseload of around 250 patients, can save the NHS around £65,000 a year.
However, in recent years we’ve had to step up our work. As health budgets grow tighter, specialist MS nurses are under increasing pressure to demonstrate the impact of their work or risk having their funding removed. Some nurses have been asked to return to ward work, while some positions have become vacant (due to leave or retirement) and not been filled.
This is why we’ve been working to help MS nurses demonstrate the impact of their work, so they can make the strongest case possible to managers and commissioners about the importance of their role.
Over the past year we’ve been piloting a project called GEMSS: Generating Evidence in Multiple Sclerosis Services. We recruited MS teams from Northumbria, Dorset, Dudley and Sheffield and worked with them to develop tools to enable them to collect and analyse data on their service, so that they can demonstrate the difference their work makes to people with MS, and present this information to managers most effectively.
The pilot was a huge success, and has already been instrumental in keeping at least one nurse in post. “Without data our future is insecure,” said one nurse who took part. “But once the data is there it’s there and it’s quite easy to update. It helps us present a really powerful case to managers. Quite often they didn’t realise the service they were getting.”
This year we’re going to produce a companion piece to our report on the value of MS nurses called Defining the Value of Specialist Allied Health Professionals in MS. We will be showing why the knowledge of specialist therapists, such as MS occupational therapists, is crucial. And we plan to to roll out the GEMSS project further so that more MS services, and more types of MS specialist, have access to the tools we’ve helped to develop.
Thank you for helping to fund this work, which is already making a difference to MS services.