Sunday 23 September 2018

Campaign seeks to double IBD specialist nurses

IBD patient Aoife Mulhall from Bray (right) with fellow patient Clara Caslin and specialist nurse Angela Mullen
IBD patient Aoife Mulhall from Bray (right) with fellow patient Clara Caslin and specialist nurse Angela Mullen

Myles Buchanan

A County Wicklow woman is supporting efforts to double the number of specialist Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) nurses.

Aoife Mulhall from Bray is backing calls made by the Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn's Disease (ISCC) to double the number of IBD nurses from 14 to 28. An ISCC delegation met with Health Minister Simon Harris in November of last year and presented him with a petition containing over 3,600 signatures, supporting the ISCC's #DoubleUp campaign.

At the time, Minister Harris said he didn't see any reason why the doubling of nurses couldn't be accommodated as part of the recruitment drive for advanced nurse practitioners

To highlight the days since the meeting with the Minister, the ISCC has launched a clock on its website which is counting upwards from the date of the meeting and will remain live until the 14 additional IBD nurses are in place.

Aoife was diagnosed with IBD eight years ago and is urging Minister Harris to recruit further specialist nurses.

'I was quite lucky because I was diagnosed very quickly. My brother was diagnosed five years before me so I knew what the warning signs were. The specialist nurses are of huge assistance,' she said.

'There are over 40,000 people across the country with IBD, most of whom are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 30. But there still aren't enough specialist nurses. They provide great support and know all about the variety of symptoms and how people react in different ways.

'It can be a difficult disease to talk about and the experts understand the disease. Specialist IBD nurses provide detailed advice on treatment for the condition and on how to cope with IBD on a day to day basis,' said Aoife.

The original call to have the number of IBD nurses doubled arose from a survey of service providers treating patients with IBD, which found that the lack of dedicated specialist nurses in Ireland is the greatest barrier to delivering patient care.

Some people find the condition difficult or embarrassing to talk about, which is another reason why expert nurses are so important.

'You just have to live day to day with it,' said Aoife. 'Most days you could be fine but then another day you might feel awful. It can result in stomach pains, diarrhoea, vomiting and fatigue. Some people start to bleed and get arthritis. These aren't the easiest symptoms to talk about and some people find it very difficult to open up. Specialist nurses offer the exact support that so many IBD sufferers are lacking.'

Most Irish patients are hospitalised within two years of diagnosis and more than half will require surgery at some stage. People in Wicklow living with (IBD) have been urged to contact local Government TDs to remind them of the urgent need to double the number of specialist IBD nurses.

The online petition is available at

Bray People