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HIV specialist nurses fundraise for World AIDS Day at North Manchester General Hospital

Date published: 06 December 2018


A team of specialist nurses at North Manchester General Hospital has launched a new fund to help support some of their most vulnerable patients living with HIV.

North Manchester General Hospital in Crumpsall is home to the North West’s regional centre for infectious diseases and sees 2,600 people with HIV, from as far away as Stoke, Cumbria, Liverpool as well as more locally.

The hospital’s HIV Specialist Nursing Team is led by Jill Delaney who has been part of the team for 10 years. Jill’s background is in sexual health and gynaecology nursing and she has witnessed the team grow in the last four years from two to five nurses, plus a senior support worker.

Manchester is a high prevalence area of people living with HIV. A high prevalence area is classed as two people out of every 1,000 are HIV positive, and in Manchester that figure is 5.8 of every 1,000 people.

HIV can affect people from all walks of life and of all ages; the team’s youngest patient is a toddler. Within the team there is a paediatric specialist nurse who supports children, families and young people up to the age of 24.

As well as treating patients, the team educates fellow healthcare workers. They recently held an event for 25 GPs in Manchester which encouraged GPs to be more aware of the kinds of conditions (or ‘clinical indicators’) patients have which should trigger the potential for an HIV test. These conditions may include chronic diarrhoea, other gastro-intestinal illnesses, skin conditions, sexually transmitted infections, pneumonia, among a long list of other conditions.

In addition, NICE guidelines published in 2016 included advice that all new patients registering at a GP practice in a high prevalence area such as Manchester, should be offered an HIV test.

Jill often shares the true story of a local man in his 20s to highlight the vital need for healthcare workers to be aware of clinical indicators to HIV. The young man visited his GP multiple times with oral thrush which was treated each time but not further investigated. The man was unknowingly HIV positive but it was not until he had a suspected stroke that he was tested, found to be positive and had developed a brain infection which led to his death. Had he been tested sooner, he could have received treatment and lived much longer.

Jill estimates that around 300 of North Manchester’s patients with HIV have ‘chaotic lifestyles’ – they may have mental health problems, be homeless or drug users, or be in an otherwise marginalised section of the community. The nurses are always seeking to engage the disengaged, which necessitates having close ties with local partners like pharmacists, GPs, probation services and homeless charities.

Jill said: “We work with fantastic people in the hospital and in the community; homeless teams will go and actively look for patients when we really need them to. But there are still times when people can’t afford to get to their regular hospital appointments, or can’t afford basic food items or to top up their gas and electric. They struggle to maintain a safe and healthy lifestyle which is possible for people with HIV and receiving the correct medication. That’s why we decided to set up a special fund, to help with the everyday basics.”

In the weeks before and after World AIDS Day on Saturday 1 December, the team are running pop-up education sessions for staff in wards and departments across the hospital.

Specialist Nurse Sarah Emerton, part of the team running education sessions, said: “We’re finding varying levels of knowledge so it’s important that we’ve been able to go onto wards and engage staff. As healthcare workers we need to be educated, bust the myths and know that people with HIV can live happy and healthy lives with the right treatment and support.”

Helen Riley, Lead Nurse for Infectious Diseases at the hospital said: “The HIV Specialist Nurse team are inspirational, they go above and beyond for all their patients and often do not publicise all they do. The team has grown significantly over the last few years which has given us the opportunity to engage more with those hard to reach patients. I am so proud to manage the team and cannot wait to see what else we can achieve in the future to improve the lives of those living with HIV in the Greater Manchester area.”

Fundraising for the new NMGH HIV Patient Support Fund kicked off with a raffle at the hospital with prizes donated by staff members and local businesses, including beauty products and treatments, food and drink items, and a luxury festive hamper. The raffle raised £410 for the new fund.

Donations to the NMGH HIV Patient Support Fund can be made through the Pennine Acute Hospitals Charity. Full details of how to donate are available from contact charity@pat.nhs.uk

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