Sapphire Nurses - the origins
The name of the scheme – ‘Sapphire’ originates from Epilepsy Action’s 45th Anniversary in 1995. The Sapphire Nurse Scheme reflects Epilepsy Action’s commitment to improving healthcare services for people with epilepsy, working in partnership with funders and healthcare providers.
The scheme was set up at a time when epilepsy healthcare services for people with epilepsy in the UK were very poor. Services have improved since then, however to bring the epilepsy specialist nurse service in the UK up to an acceptable level, more nurses are needed.
Some health trusts have a good epilepsy specialist nurse service whilst in other areas there are no epilepsy specialist nurse services. Please note that the scheme is now closed for new applications for 2014.
Description of scheme
The scheme provides healthcare trusts with a grant to set up a specialist epilepsy service within their catchment area. Epilepsy Action can provide resources to support the employment of an epilepsy specialist nurse - a Sapphire Nurse, at band six or seven.
Each application is assessed on its own merits and in the light of money available to Epilepsy Action at any one time. The nurse may specialise in caring for adults with epilepsy or children (paediatric) with epilepsy.
Funding is provided to a maximum of full salary funding for one year or part salary funding for two years. This is sometimes referred to as pump priming.
Supplies of Epilepsy Action patient information materials, e.g. leaflets, booklets and support for the nurse by Epilepsy Action staff are offered free of charge and this is ongoing beyond the pump priming period. Epilepsy Action’s funding for the cost of the nurse post comes from pharmaceutical companies, charitable foundations and general donations to Epilepsy Action. Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity supports the majority of paediatric Sapphire Nurse posts.
Benefits of the scheme
The introduction of the Sapphire Nurse scheme in the UK has heightened awareness of epilepsy and encouraged working partnerships with other specialist nurses, GPs, other healthcare staff within the NHS trust, educationalists, employers and patients.
Sapphire Nurses provide important services e.g. advice and information provision to patients, audit, counselling and specialist nurse-led clinics such as transitional clinics and pre-conception counselling. Sapphire Nurses also work with GP practices developing the knowledge of epilepsy amongst GPs and practice nurses.
Continuing work involving the Sapphire Nurses include the development of resources for people for whom English is not their first language. They also give talks to different professional groups within the community and presentations at conferences, ensuring the needs of people with epilepsy are addressed at both local and national level. Many go on to contribute to the advancement of epilepsy care nationally by carrying out research.