New report highlights lack of MS nurses

Published 15 March 2022

Eighty percent of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are missing out on the essential care and support they need because they are looked after by specialist nurses with too many people on their books according to a new report.

The MS Trust found an additional 149 specialist nurses are needed in order to bring caseload numbers in line with the recommended sustainable 315 (Punshon et al, 2021). Patients are currently missing out on vital services because of the size of nurses’ current caseloads.

The Trust’s report also revealed that almost 80% of people with MS live in areas where nurses’ caseloads are higher than the recommended figure. This is an increase of 69% since 2018. Across the UK, the average caseload for an MS nurse now sits at 472 people, which is almost 50% above the recommended level.

When these stark figures are combined with the impact Covid-19 has had on services across the NHS, people with MS are regularly missing out on critical care to manage their condition.

The MS Trust’s latest research does show that there has been a welcome increase in the number of MS nurses over the past two years, rising 16% from 250 to the present 292.  However, the report also found that considerable variation remains in the levels of nursing provision across the UK, with the most significant shortages found in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Other key findings from the report include that one third of MS specialist nurse services across the country are unable to provide either home visits or ward visits (36% and 33% respectively), whilst 15 sites (12%) are unable to offer either. This excludes people with the most advanced forms of MS from being able to access face to face MS care in those areas.

Administrative support is essential to delivering an efficient and effective MS specialist nurse service but 18% of MS specialist nurse teams still have no administrative support.