Torbay and South Devon Multiple Sclerosis team win international award

Image: Torbay and South Devon MS Team
The Multiple Sclerosis team at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

Published: 21 June 2022

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust has won an international award for an innovative service developed by their Multiple Sclerosis (MS) team in partnership with a former local GP who lives with MS.

Inspired by a conversation with Dr Colin Bannon about how receiving better health and lifestyle advice can help people manage MS, Dr Agne Straukiene (Consultant Neurologist) and her team developed the Healthy Lifestyle Clinic.

For the past three years, every person in Torbay and South Devon with newly diagnosed MS has been offered the opportunity to join the clinic and meet with other people living with MS. Together people living with MS are able to find out more about the condition and the treatments available as well as exploring how a healthy lifestyle can significantly improve brain health. The team have won the first MS Brain Health Team Award (2022) which recognises the unique service that they provide.

Dr Agne Straukiene, Consultant Neurologist, Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Winning this international award is just amazing. To be recognised by our international peers for the work we are doing in Torbay and South Devon is simply fantastic. I could not be prouder of our team and our patients and what we have achieved together.

“Our vision as an organisation is better health and care for all and this is what we are striving to achieve. We want to make sure that people living with long-term conditions such as MS have the best chance of living long and healthy lives. By offering advice, help and support with a particular focus on heart and brain health as well as connecting people living with MS together to share their experiences and learning we are supporting people to live well.

“I would like to express my personal thanks to Dr Colin Bannon for his passion and dedication and for working with us to make this idea a reality.”

Dr Colin Bannon, former local GP, said: “The diagnosis of MS is a life changing event, but once the dust settles, a positive approach is important. There is now so much that can now be done to treat MS that optimism is realistic. This clinic gives patients the time to meet, share experiences with other people with MS and learn how much we can do ourselves to maintain and improve our own brain health.”

“In a friendly interactive session we explore the considerable benefits of non-smoking, a healthy diet, exercise, sunshine and meditation. A brain healthy lifestyle is a critical partner to the effective medications and therapies now available and which have a positive impact on managing the illness. This information helps us look after our brains, and is a wonderfully holistic and timely innovation.”

The Healthy Lifestyle Clinic has proved to be very popular with people living with MS.

Valerie Bailey said: “I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at Easter 2018 – although I had an episode a few years before. I was very disabled very quickly and was devastated at the changes the disease produced in my life. I could not work anymore, not walk, even in my home and quickly found myself housebound and lonely.

“Bit by bit, I gave myself goals and targets to achieve, be it diet or activity, to retrain my body. By July, I climbed a volcano in Iceland to raise funds.

“I then met with the Healthy Lifestyle Clinic when it started, and I have not looked back. My only power against MS is my health. Thank you for showing me that although there are treatments, being active and healthy is key in the fight against MS.”

Lorne Smyth, said: “I first had problems when I was 12, I was suffering from skin sensitivities and eyesight problems- years later I found out someone had suggested possible MS but there was nothing they could have done so I just accepted things.

“Many years later in my mid-twenties I was diagnosed with MS officially so started making changes in my life and made plans to move to the south west for a slower and healthier lifestyle.

“This coincided nicely with the advent of the Healthy Lifestyle Clinic, where I found the perfect combination of a brilliant support network and the most enthusiastic care team I could ever have hoped for. This has inspired me to continue with a healthy diet and exercise so I can work full time yet have some energy to enjoy my spare time. It’s been life changing.”

The Healthy Lifestyles Clinic for people with MS at Torbay and South Devon will continue to be developed as new research continues to show the many ways which a healthy lifestyle can improve the lives of people living with MS.