Scotland can’t wait for more Parkinson’s nurses, new report reveals

We’re calling for more specialist nurses to support the growing population of people living with Parkinson’s in Scotland.

Today we’re launching a major new report, which highlights that Scotland currently does not have enough Parkinson’s nurses. 

But there’s more. A double crisis is ahead.

The number of people with Parkinson’s is growing and more than half of Parkinson's nurses working in Scotland right now are due to retire before 2030.

There are also shortages of other essential members of Parkinson's teams, including doctors, physiotherapists, speech therapists and occupational therapists.

Read our Scotland Can't Wait report (PDF, 8.1MB).

Tanith Muller, Parliamentary and Campaigns manager for Parkinson’s UK in Scotland, said:

"We are really concerned that people are struggling to get the support they need from their nurse right now. And these pressures will only get worse as the number of people living with Parkinson's in Scotland continues to grow."

How many nurses are needed?

We recommend that each full-time specialist nurse should have a maximum of 300 patients that they are responsible for. Nurses working in remote areas should have even fewer patients. 

This means Scotland needs a minimum of 44 full-time Parkinson’s nurses. Yet there are currently fewer than 33 full-time equivalent Parkinson’s nurses.

A typical Parkinson’s nurse in Scotland has about 100 more patients than they should.

Parkinson’s nurses are a "lifeline"

Dr Anne-Louise Cunnington, who is a consultant in older people’s medicine based at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, said specialist nurses are a "lifeline" for people with Parkinson’s:

"Parkinson’s nurses support and educate, not just people with Parkinson’s and their carers, but also other health and social care professionals who often know very little about this complex condition. They are the link between primary care, hospital-based care and very specialist care, as well as social carers and the third sector. 

"Parkinson’s nurses act as the advocate for patients and their carers throughout their whole journey."

Why specialist nurses matter to people with Parkinson’s

Mark Coxe, who lives in Fife, has built a strong relationship with his nurse since he was first diagnosed in 2013. The trust between them proved crucial last year, when he started to struggle with his mental health.

Mark explained:

"I took a dip last year and started to go downhill quickly. I was feeling depressed, which made my Parkinson’s symptoms worse. I was really finding it difficult to function.

"I called the nurse and she got back to me the next day. She made an emergency appointment. I saw her the following afternoon and she prescribed new medication. I was worried the dip would be permanent, as Parkinson’s is degenerative, the future is downhill. But the nurse assured me it was temporary. I went home, started the new medication and soon got back on my feet.

"My world would be very difficult to live in without the Parkinson’s nurse."

Read our report

You can see the data behind our call for more Parkinson’s nurses in our report, Scotland Can’t Wait.

We’re making recommendations on a whole range of services that matter to people with Parkinson’s.