Two new recipients of the £50,000 Gordon Aikman Scholarship have been announced. Dr Ian Morrison, Consultant Neurologist and Clinical Lead for Neurology and Neurophysiology at the University of Dundee, and Louise Murrie, MND Clinical Nurse Specialist for NHS Fife, have both been awarded funds to take forward projects which aim to improve MND care in Scotland.
The Gordon Aikman Scholarship was set up in 2017, in honour of late MND campaigner Gordon Aikman, to fund research and developments into improving care and support for people living with motor neurone disease (MND).
The £50,000 scholarship is joint-funded by MND Scotland and the Scottish Government, each investing £25,000 annually, and is administered at the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research at the University of Edinburgh.
Dr Ian Morrison, in collaboration with Dr Innes Visagie, Lecturer in Philosophy and Theology at the University of Highlands and Islands, aims to study the impact of spiritual care interventions for people with MND and their families; and to identify patients who would benefit from this intervention to develop support services appropriately.
Ian said: “The psychological impact on people with MND and their families is significant. In palliative care, it is recognised that patients faced with an incurable illness may seek answers or comfort through spiritual or religious methodologies, and although hospital-based chaplaincy or spiritual care services are an established part of clinical care teams in the United States, as well as in palliative care in the United Kingdom, their involvement in patient care in neurological disease is variable.
“In Tayside, we have established links between Neurology and the Department of Spiritual Care to provide support to staff and patients. We hope this study will demonstrate the benefits of spiritual care to support people with MND and their families. It could then form the basis of a larger study of the intervention across Scotland, with spiritual care eventually being integrated into clinical care teams as currently occurs in palliative care.”
Louise Murrie, the second recipient of this year’s scholarship, will be investigating the impact of Advance Care Planning (ACP). A vital part of caring for someone with MND, is to have conversations about the future and to understand their health care wishes; this is known as ACP.
These wishes need to be communicated to service providers, such as Social Work, the NHS and charities, to improve the care and support of people with MND. The aim of this project is to create a plan, ‘The Aikman ACP’, which will synchronize these essential service providers, so that they understand the needs and wishes of the person they are supporting, to ensure these services are provided, where possible, in the preferred place and at the appropriate time.
Louise said: "I am extremely privileged to work with patients and their families affected by MND. MND patients have a wide range of health and social care professionals, as well as charities supporting them, therefore communication is key. An ACP allows people with MND an opportunity to discuss, and plan their future health care.
“I hope this project will ensure that people living with MND have a care plan which expresses their wishes, and what is most important to them, and that this information can be easily communicated to the full multi-disciplinary team. I am very grateful to be receiving this funding to improve advance care planning for people with MND in Fife, and in the future, I hope the ‘Aikman ACP’ will be rolled out across the other Health Boards in Scotland.”
Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, said: “I am delighted to see that Gordon’s influence continues to be recognised through our funding of the scholarship that bears his name. The scholarship aims to build on Gordon’s goal of improving care and treatments for people living with MND to enhance the quality of their lives. I wish Dr Morrison and Ms Murrie the very best of luck as they embark upon their chosen projects.”
Dr Jane Haley MBE, Head of Research at MND Scotland, said: “We look forward to working with Ian and Louise, and seeing how their projects can make life easier for people living with MND. We could not support important work like this without the incredible generosity of our fundraisers and donors, so I thank everyone who has made this possible. You are changing lives for people affected today, and in the future.”
To continue supporting research which aims to improve the lives of people living with MND, and research which targets the discovery of treatments for MND, you can donate to MND Scotland online today.
Dr Jane Haley MBE - Head of Research