Guest blogger Isobel Mason, Nurse Consultant in Gastroenterology

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What a year it’s been! I joined the Crohn’s and Colitis UK team back in May and my time here is getting busier and busier.

I currently work as a Nurse Consultant in Gastroenterology within the NHS and have previously worked as an IBD Nurse. My role at the charity is a Service Development Manager, so my focus is on improving the number of IBD Nurses and the quality of provision. This is a hugely important area of work and, seven months on, we’re making a real impact!

Specialist IBD Nurses make such a big difference to the lives of people affected by Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, which are the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). We know that, across the UK, at least 100,000 people with Crohn’s and Colitis don’t have access to a Specialist IBD Nurse. Not only that, but 63% of IBD services in the UK don’t have enough Specialist Nurses to meet the needs of everyone affected. This has got to change, and I’m so excited to be a part of making this change happen.

World IBD Day – e-action

The very generous funding from the Catherine McEwan Foundation has meant that Crohn’s and Colitis UK could launch a campaign for more IBD Nurses on World IBD Day (19 May). The ‘More IBD Nurses – Better Care’ campaign was my first project, and it’s been a real success.

If you haven’t already been a part of this, where have you been?! Crohn’s and Colitis UK’s supporters joined force to campaign for more IBD Nurses by sending an e-letter to the CEO of their local hospital or hospital trust. An incredible 1,300 emails were sent!

I was overwhelmed by the response, and the campaign has raised fantastic awareness. This has allowed me to start conversations in more than 20 Trusts about the IBD nursing service and its development. Five Trusts have reviewed or resubmitted business cases for IBD nursing roles as a result, and two Trusts have secured funding for posts. A further Four Trusts have accessed support from Crohn’s and Colitis UK to discuss the IBD nursing service and plan its development, which is such great news!

It’s been a really worthwhile action and shows how harnessing patient power can make such a difference. We had some brilliant quotes from patients too:

“My IBD Nurse was amazing when I was an in-patient and I would never have made it through the hardest time of my life without him!”

“When I was at my lowest, she was able to provide sensible advice and help lift my mood with her wise words. I’m not sure what would have happened to me if this service hadn’t have been there. Please, please, please never underestimate the value of IBD Nurses.”

But patients also highlighted the real need for more IBD Nurses:

“I would like to say that the support received from the current IBD Nurses is excellent given the restrictions on their time, so often I have received calls long after their normal hours of work. We really do need extra nurses.”

“Please ensure that increased funding is found NOW for our IBD Nurse to be available at least five days a week rather than the three days at present. She is an invaluable asset to the hospital, and the extra cost would be offset by the reduced use of consultants’ time in answering and dealing with patient concerns.”

The campaign is still ongoing and, if you haven’t already done so, please support it here.

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The National Audit for IBD Nurses

This email campaign hasn’t been my only project though – like I said, it’s been busier and busier! I’ve also been working on a nursing audit. Two surveys have been sent out and completed by IBD Nurse Specialists, and they’ve given us a really good national overview of the services as we work to increase numbers. I’m grateful to everyone who took the time to complete them – I think my ongoing email reminders must have helped!

The audit is now complete and we have our own National IBD Nurse database (with help from the Royal College of Nursing). We have data from all 157 hospital trust services across the UK and it’s enabled us to identify where there is a gap in provision of IBD nurses.

The success over the past seven months is thanks to every single individual who joined the IBD Nurses Campaign, and together we can continue to make a huge difference and get better care for all of those living with Crohn’s and Colitis. I’m delighted with what we’ve achieved so far, and am excited for what 2017 will bring. Happy New Year!