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Guardian public sector awards recognises mental health nurse project supporting people with MS

NOVEMBER 27, 2007

A mental health specialist nurse project at the Institute of Psychiatry, in conjunction with the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Clinic at King's College Hospital, has been been chosen as one of two runners-up in the Long Term conditions category of 2007 Guardian Public Services Award.  The project has been recognised for its holistic assessment and treatment service for people living with MS in south London.

Sally Jones, the Mental Health Nurse Specialist and project leader at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, talked about the project explaining: ‘My role is to provide psychiatric assessments and advice on treatment for individuals who have MS. Referrals come from the MS Clinic's neurologists at King's College Hospital and the specialist MS nurses in Southwark Primary Care Trust. I work closely with my nursing colleagues to help them recognise mental health problems early on. As well as assessing patients, I also provide short-term cognitive behavioural therapy for those who most need it.'

The MS Society, which is funding this three year project along with Teva Pharmaceuticals, encouraged the team to enter The Guardian Public Services 2007 Awards in the Service Delivery category. 

Sally Jones continues: ‘The project team is delighted to have been acknowledged as a runner-up in our award category, not least because this recognition raises the profile of mental health difficulties that people with MS often experience. One in two MS patients can experience depression, which is twice the average of individuals without the condition. Similarly, 34 per cent of people with MS may suffer from anxiety. Other mental health problems, such as mood swings, cognitive impairment and even psychosis, are not uncommon.'

This project is being supported by a variety of different departments and professionals making a truly collaborative effort.  Collaborators include Dr Eli Silber, a neurologist from Kings College Hospital, Pauline Shaw and the MS Nurse team at Southwark PCT, Professor Tony David and Dr Marco catani from neuropsychiatry, Professor Trudie Chalder providing Cognitive Behaviour Therapy supervision and support, Dr Richard Gray and Professor Kevin Gournay from the section of mental health nursing.

Most common neurological disorder
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological disorder among young people, affecting approximately 85,000 people in the UK. Studies have shown that people with MS may experience a variety of psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, and pathological laughter and crying. Psychiatric disorders may result from the psychological impact of a diagnosis of MS and its prognosis, also from a perceived lack of social support from medication or from damage to neuronal pathways.

Many GPs and psychiatrists have little experience of helping people who have mental health problems as a result of an underlying medical condition. Even though research has identified the mental health needs of people who have MS, no services have been developed to meet those needs.

Eli Silber, Consultant Neurologist in the MS Clinic at King's College Hospital, originally applied for the funding for the project. He adds ‘We will be evaluating the success of the project when it reaches its conclusion in 2009, assessing opinions from medical professionals, patients and carers alike. If the care model is proven to have worked and more funding could be secured, the aim would be to replicate this project across the UK.'

Project Team Details
The MS Service at King's College Hospital, in collaboration with Mental Health Nursing and Cognitive Neuropsychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), appointed Sally Jones as a Specialist Mental Health Nurse working with people with MS to run this project in 2006.

The Guardian Public Services Awards
The Guardian Public Services Awards were launched to highlight the huge range of public services whose inspirational work is often unacknowledged, and what is involved in delivering them day in day out. This is the fourth year of the awards, run in partnership with Hays Public Services. All entries were judged  by a panel of judges from the public, private and voluntary sectors.

The winners were announced at an awards ceremony in Central London on 27 November 2007.  For more information on the awards go to: Public Services Awards 2007 - shortlist
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