Patients living with multiple sclerosis now have more control over their treatment times at Princess Royal Hospital

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Living with multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, can cause people problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance. People are normally diagnosed in their 20s, 30s or 40s and need lifelong treatment to help slow or reduce the overall worsening of disability.

The Planned Investigation Unit (PIU) at Princess Royal Hospital provides a wide range of treatments for more than 300 patients living with MS from across Sussex. Over recent years, demand for the unit has increased by 55%. This is because of new therapies being introduced at an earlier point to slow disease progression.

To address the demand, the team at Hayward’s Heath recently underwent an innovative redesign project, including making all drugs available every day, introducing new ways to administer certain treatments and changes to the nursing workforce.

This not only created an additional 72 hours of treatment times each week, but also provides patients with more flexibility and control over when they come into hospital to receive their treatment.

Robin Hatcher, 30, from Brighton was diagnosed with MS in 2019. The treatment he was on was only available at the clinic on Thursdays and Fridays, which as a comedian were also his busiest period for doing comedy gigs. This affected where and when he could perform.

Robin said: “It was really tough because the effects of my treatment make me very tired and I just have to have a sleep afterwards. This limited where I could perform that night and I could only go somewhere no more than a few hours away.”

Robin explained: “That limitation has now been taken away and the burden feels less. I can now choose from five days in the week. Because my treatment has to be given once a month or every six weeks, I have to go into hospital often but this new flexibility to choose when I go in means my treatment doesn’t get in the way of my life anymore. My MS doesn’t stop me from doing anything.”

Justine Munn, PIU Sister said: “The response from our patients about the new service has been really positive. We’re so pleased with how this project has gone and to be able to provide a flexible and efficient service our patients can appreciate, while addressing the increasing demand for our services.”

“Our unit sees relatively young patients with this condition. These are people who have busy lives, some juggling families, home life and work. It can be really hard for them to balance work and home responsibilities with getting their treatment, so this new way of working gives them back that control and it fits so much better with their lives.”