Suffolk: Great divide in MS care revealed as charity calls for an end to postcode lottery

Senior nurse Louise Palmer at Ipswich Hospital took over the role as MS specialist nurse last year

Senior nurse Louise Palmer at Ipswich Hospital took over the role as MS specialist nurse last year - Credit: Contributed

MULTIPLE sclerosis (MS) patients in Suffolk are among those with the poorest access to specialist nurses as the MS society calls for an end to the postcode lottery.

New figures have shown almost half of patients living in Suffolk have not been able to see an MS nurse in the last 12 months when required – while three quarters of sufferers in neighbouring Norfolk have. More than 600 patients in Ipswich and east Suffolk were left without a specialist nurse, after Chris Boyes, described by patients as their “guardian angel”, retired in October 2011. He was replaced last September by Louise Palmer, on a part-time basis.

Suffolk patient Donna Holmes, said: “My MS nurse retired and wasn’t replaced straight away; they play such a vital role that we were left without that link.

“It was terrible, as we just don’t know what life will bring each day with this condition, and the nurses provided that extra support.”

The contrast in care has been revealed by the MS Society, which this week launched its campaign calling for all sufferers to have fair and timely access to the treatments and services they need. Its figures – published this week – show 47% of people in Suffolk who needed to see an MS nurse in the past 12 months had not been able to, while 76% of patients in Norfolk had.

They also revealed nearly three quarters of Suffolk patients had been able to see a neurologist in the past 12 months, compared to 91% of those north of the border.

Nick Rijke, director for policy and research at the MS Society, said: “These findings worryingly suggest the likelihood of someone being able to see an MS nurse is often based on luck – like where they live – rather than their genuine clinical need.

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“Getting access to an MS nurse is vital for people with MS. They work with other health care professionals to respond early to changes in symptoms and provide crucial advice and support to help people with MS manage their condition. In doing this, they can help people avoid costly emergency admissions to hospital.”

The charity is calling on the government to stop the lottery and ensure every person with MS has a personalised treatment plan.

It has also pledged to work with Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group to identify what can be done to better support the 1,200 plus people with MS in the county.

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