Bridging the gap between pharma and the NHS in MS

Janette Curlis is a Multiple Sclerosis Nurse Advisor (MSNA) at Biogen, helping to support the company’s Multiple Sclerosis (MS) field teams and developing patient and Healthcare Professional (HCP) materials.

We spoke to her about being a bridge between pharma and the NHS and the challenges that are facing Multiple Sclerosis Nurses (MSNs) and patients today.

Janette, what does your day-to-day work involve as a MSNA?

I work within the medical department at Biogen covering the UK and Ireland where my role is wide and multifaceted. As well as supporting our field teams, I develop nurse and patient materials, education and projects.

As a MSNA, my role has naturally evolved to accommodate how I support the nurses that I work with. I listen to and identify the gaps in their education and work cross functionally to develop training and education that will support their needs – at the same time being mindful not to increase their workload.

“As the demands of the job have changed, perhaps it is time to review the role and skill mix needed within MS teams. MS support nurses and MS admin coordinators would free the MSNs to concentrate on more complex needs of their patients”

The Disease Modifying Therapy (DMT) landscape alone requires education, information and planning to ensure the patient has the right treatment at the right time and the best experience.

The role of an MSN has changed over the years and has become more complex – what would you say are the main challenges MSNs face today and what are some of the wider challenges in MS care now?

The role is multipurpose, challenging and ever changing along with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK and the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland.

MSNs are time-poor. As the role has developed there are several new challenges they face. With around 14 disease modifying therapies now available, the MSNs of today require a different skill set to previous years.

There is a lack of consistency when it comes to provision of dedicated admin support to the MSNs. The increasing workload has put pressure onto nurses to fit everything into their working week, whilst maintaining quality time with their patients.

As the demands of the job have changed, perhaps it is time to review the role and skill mix needed within the teams. MS support nurses and MS admin coordinators would free the MSN to concentrate on more complex needs of their patients.

Looking at the wider challenges, it’s difficult to separate them out individually. They are wide ranging, and, not unlike the NHS, a lack of investment in developing services that reflect the change in delivery that’s needed today and for the future is a major factor.

What I find is that there are inefficiencies in the systems causing delays and duplication of work, and with no time to address these issues we see delays on areas such as time to treat and referrals.

How is the NHS addressing these challenges, and how does Biogen support that work?

With limited resource around service improvement in the NHS, Biogen have a team of Neurology Business Managers who work with MS services across the UK and can identify where improvements can be made. I can then support the nurses by assisting where appropriate.

How do you support Biogen in helping to address these challenges?

Moving forward we are building on the programme we delivered in 2019; the nurse advisor team ran numerous bespoke events and individual teaching sessions.

We continue to support the MS Trust Mental Health Campaign and I am working with the team to look at how we can support both MSNs and people with MS.

What are the key areas you’re looking to focus on to help improve value and engagement in MS?

All new MSNs appreciate onboarding is difficult. I have a specific half-day training programme to enable the nurses to have a firm grounding in MS. I also hold follow up sessions for MSNs which include immunology, DMTs, and MRI.

Nurses often ask why I left my hospital position of MSN, and whether I miss the patients. My reply is always that I never left MS nursing; I still work on behalf of the patients, just in a different way!

About the interviewee

Janette CurlisJanette Curlis is a MSNA working at Biogen. She has worked in Neurology since 1991 and specifically as an MSN since 1997. Janette was one of the few MSNs pre risk sharing scheme recruitment. She worked in clinical research in MS studies as well as her role as MSN up until leaving the NHS in 2011. She worked with almost all of the now licensed therapies in trial phase. Janette moved to the pharmaceutical industry to take up a new role as nurse advisor for Novartis in 2011 and joined Biogen in 2014.

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