Scotland politics

NHS to fund specialist MND nurses

Gordon Aikman
Image caption Gordon Aikman has become an MND campaigner since being diagnosed with the terminal condition last year

The NHS is to begin funding the specialist nurses who care for motor neurone disease (MND) patients in Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will also pledge to double the number of specialist nurses, who are currently paid for through charity donations.

She made the decision within weeks of meeting MND campaigner Gordon Aikman.

Mr Aikman, 29, was diagnosed with the incurable condition last year, when he was working for Better Together.

He has since raised more than £100,000 for MND charities through his Gordon's Fightback campaign, which is also calling for improvements in care for patients.

When he met Ms Sturgeon before Christmas, he called for the number of specialist MND nurses to be increased from seven to 14 and for them to be paid for from public funds rather than charitable donations.

Extra resources

Ms Sturgeon announced the cash to pay for these changes as part of a £2.5m-a-year plan to improve specialist nursing care for those with MND and other rare conditions.

She told BBC Scotland: "We are establishing a £2.5m fund to expand specialist nursing care for people with very rare conditions.

"The first allocation of this fund will be for people with motor neurone disease and an amount of £700,000 will fund the existing motor neurone disease specialist nurses and double their number.

"It was one of the specific objectives that Gordon Aikman set out in his campaign and I'm delighted the government is able to do it."

The money will come from extra resources earmarked for the Scottish budget in the Chancellor's autumn statement.

'Horrific disease'

Responding to Ms Sturgeon's announcement, Mr Aikman said: "I am delighted. This will transform the lives of Scottish MND patients, including me.

"Today, Scotland is leading the way with motor neurone disease care. But now it is up to the UK parties to commit to double MND research funding so we can find a cure to this horrific disease.

"This is a victory for the thousands of supporters who demanded action through, MSPs from across the political spectrum, and the first minister who answered the call for change."

The MND Scotland charity also welcomed Ms Sturgeon's announcement, which it said would give patients greater contact with nurses as they will not have such huge geographical areas to cover.

Currently MND Scotland meets 80% of the nurses' costs, despite repeatedly asking NHS boards which do not contribute to do so.

The charity said Ms Sturgeon's announcement would save it more than £300,000 per year, which would be used to introduce new services aimed at improving the lives of those affected by MND.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said he would double the number of MND nurses in Scotland as part of his plan to deliver 1,000 more nurses in Scotland if the party wins the general election in May.

MND is a rare, progressive and debilitating disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord. It leads to weakness and muscle wasting and can affect walking, talking, eating and breathing.

There are said to 426 people in Scotland living with MND.

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