One of Britannia’s core objectives is to improve the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s disease and provide support for their families and caregivers.

Our nurse team works alongside the NHS to help Parkinson’s patients on apomorphine therapy all around the UK. Here, International Nurse Manager Jan Parsons, Assistant Nurse Manager for North-West England Susan Ferguson and Senior Nurse Specialist for Northern Ireland, Lindsey Robinson talk about how the team came about, and the vital role it plays in keeping patients’ Parkinson’s symptoms under control.

How did you get involved with the Britannia Nurse team?

I was a Parkinson’s nurse specialist at the Walton Centre in Liverpool for 16 years. There were only five of us in the UK that were Parkinson’s specialists helping patients move onto advanced therapies, so when Britannia decided to start a dedicated nurse team in 2008, that was a good place for them to start.

The main idea was to provide assistance to the NHS, because they haven’t got the capacity to fully manage a patient on a therapy like apomorphine that requires a lot of specialist support.It’s certainly been a big eye opener for me coming from the NHS and then working for a pharmaceutical company. It’s quite a big change.

My previous role had nothing to do with Parkinson’s disease, interestingly enough. I worked in Glasgow as a haematology specialist. I had relocated down to Cheshire and decided I just wanted to try something different, so I was approached and asked if I’d be interested in joining a brand new team who were being put together to support patients with Parkinson’s disease, and I thought: “well, yes I’ll give that a go!”

I was lucky enough to get through the interview and to be taken on as part of the team. And it was quite refreshing actually to be given that opportunity – because I didn’t have very much experience in Parkinson’s disease at all. But we had quite intensive initial training and then ongoing support and training on the job, so I got into the swing of it quite quickly.

I have worked for Britannia Pharmaceuticals from 2012. Prior to that I was a chemotherapy nurse. I came into this role looking for a new challenge, and I certainly found it! I currently cover the whole of Northern Ireland looking after around 60 patients who have been referred to us for apomorphine therapy for their Parkinson’s disease.

How are Britannia nurses trained?

I think we’re very fortunate in that we have five of our nurses who are previous Parkinson’s specialists. This obviously made training those nurses much easier because all you’ve got to concentrate on are the apomorphine and the pump devices themselves. If a nurse comes to us from any other speciality, then they have to have quite in-depth training on Parkinson’s so that process takes longer.

It is great to be able to get information and education from all sides – not only from within our own business, but also from key opinion leaders and consultants who are able to pass on their knowledge to us and help us grow as a team. I’m a great believer that if you’re not learning something new every day you aren’t listening!

We tend to assign a more senior nurse to each new nurse that comes on board and that person can help guide and mentor and also just be there as a sounding board for any obstacle she’s coming up against. But we’ve got very good support within head office as well: A very good HR department and input from the rest of the business.

What does the typical journey of a patient on Apomorphine look like?

Right at the start, we go out and assess the patients and then, if the patient’s doctor considers apomorphine is appropriate for them, we either help NHS staff to put those patients on to the therapy, or, in some cases, we literally follow that patient right the way through their journey with the drug.

When they first get set up, we might go and visit a patient every day for two weeks. After that, our role is to help them with regards to clinic appointments, home visits and with telephone support. If we get a phone call that somebody has been urgently admitted somewhere or if maybe a patient’s care at home isn’t going well, then my diary can change from that minute onwards in the day. So, it’s a very reactive job. It’s a job that requires you to have an awful lot of flexibility.

It is very difficult to generalize because this will vary greatly, but it is common that each patient will have a GP who won’t be specialised in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. In addition the patient will usually have a local Parkinson’s nurse and neurology consultant. In some areas, where NHS resources are stretched, patients may not be able to see their consultant any more than maybe once a year and they might see their Parkinson’s nurse perhaps only every six months. So, if patients need support because things are not going well, they will generally contact us because they know that we will usually get an answer to the problem fairly quickly and can speak to their consultant or NHS PD nurse if we need to.

The Britannia nurse team is relatively small but covers the whole country,

What are the challenges in ensuring all your patients’ needs are met?

If you’ve ever been to Northern Ireland, we have one motorway that covers a very small area of the country! So, there is a lot of travelling on back roads to visit the more remote patients. If you went by satnav you would often have to drive through a river to get to their houses! It is difficult. But nobody’s out of our reach. We can get there. There’s nothing to stop us as a team getting to that patient regardless of where they live in the UK. And from a Northern Ireland point of view I can get anywhere within a few hours. I know one of my colleagues spends a lot of time on ferries visiting remote Scotland islands, so she has a lot of adventures!

What are the most satisfying things about working for the Britannia Nurse team?

There is never anything greater than to watch a new nurse doing an apomorphine response test for the first time. Watching that patient get up and walk within five minutes. It still gets me after all these years, and there is nothing greater than to share that experience with other nurses who can see for themselves the huge difference we can make in patients’ lives. It still means an awful lot. Otherwise I don’t think I’d still be involved after 20-odd years as a Parkinson’s nurse and then working with Britannia. It’s still the greatest pleasure watching that patient switch on from being totally rigid and immobile.

We’re in a lovely and privileged position to get to know those patients really well. We are invited into their home. We get to know them. We get to know the family. We can share in the ups and downs. It’s very satisfying to see them doing something as simple as getting out and going for a walk, being able to interact normally with their family and friends and to be in social situations where they have confidence that their therapy is working. We understand that’s really important to the patient. It’s really important to us too.

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200 Longwater Ave, Green Park, Reading, Berkshire, RG2 6GP

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© Copyright 2019 Britannia Pharmaceuticals

Job Code BRIT-0720-11423
Date of Preparation: September 2020

Britannia Pharmaceuticals Ltd, a company registered in England and Wales. Registered Office: 200 Longwater Avenue, Green Park, Reading, Berkshire RG2 6GP.
Registered No. 01557088

 

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