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31 May 2022
Austin Health celebrated World MS Day on May 30. This was an opportunity to raise awareness and advocate for better services, celebrate support networks and champion self-care. The theme of this year’s World MS Day is Connections, focusing on building community connection, self-connection and connections to quality care.
There are more than 25,600 people living with MS in Australia, making it the most common chronic neurological disease diagnosed in young adults in Australia. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, with three out of every four diagnoses in women.
The symptoms vary and the experience of having MS is highly individual. There is currently no cure for MS, but treatments are available which can modify the course of the disease.
Belinda Bardsley is an MS Certified Nurse and has worked at Austin Health’s MS Service (N-CRESS) since 2008. As the recent past President of MS Nurses Australasia, she was involved in research which explored the delivery and value of MS Nurse Care in Australia. This revealed that people with MS who have access to MS Nurses have better health outcomes, and has resulted in the launch of a report entitled MS Nurse Care in Australia.
“As well as providing clinical care, an MS nurse provides education, counselling and compassion to help support people with MS to understand and live with this complex disease. MS Nurses ensure that people with MS are connected to support services and feel empowered through informed and shared decision-making about treatment, lifestyle and research choices, and we stay with them throughout the disease course”, says Belinda.
"The research is exciting. It provides high-quality and robust evidence of the value of MS Nurse care in Australia both in terms of health outcomes for people with MS, but also in terms of economic benefits.”
“People with MS who have access to MS Nurse care have lower levels of disability, slower disease progression, less severe symptoms, lower levels of depression and anxiety and a higher quality of life than those without access.”
The research also shows that MS Nursing also benefits the health system, with this individualised and highly cost-effective model of care shown to reduce ED presentations and hospital admissions.
Belinda says there is more to do to ensure that everyone can access this type of care.
“About a third of people with MS do not have access to, or are not aware of the existence of, MS Nurses. The research showed that these people were adversely affected in terms of health outcomes.”
“On this World MS Day, we can raise awareness of the value MS Nursing brings to people with MS and support increased access to this extremely beneficial care”, said Belinda.
We treat people with multiple sclerosis and other disorders caused by changes in immunity that affect the nervous system. (brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles).