Leading functional neurological disorder research and services

Dr Biba Stanton, consultant neurologist, talks about some of the education work recently developed to raise awareness around supporting the needs of people with functional neurological disorder (FND). 

Biba StantonBiba [pictured right], who works across Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts, has a key focus in this area and is a member of a workstream group developing a range of initiatives to improve care for patients.

FND is a problem with the functioning of the nervous system that affects the way the brain can access or control the body. 

King’s Health Partners has a wealth of expertise in FND and identified a real opportunity to look at how the workstream group could translate our expertise into patient care through closer working across our partnership. This work is an example of  ‘One Team’ working, meaning working across our organisations’ boundaries, with colleagues across King’s Health Partners.

This piece shines a spotlight on the workstream group’s work in this area.

How is the focus on education benefiting patients and raising awareness about the condition?

FND is still a specialist area in which few clinical services and clinicians have an interest or expertise. One of King’s Health Partners Neurosciences’ key priorities has been to look at how the FND workstream group could use education to raise awareness of the condition. Opportunities to make a real impact on patients with FND, such as equipping health professionals with basic skills to support patients and providing education to patients and their families on managing the condition, have been made possible through the FND workstream group.

In late 2019, KHP ran a neuropsychiatry event with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust where patients shared their experience of navigating through FND services. Their stories have helped inform the type of information we provide to healthcare professionals, staff and loved ones.

King’s Health Partners has enabled and supported developing the educational programme, including:

  • the successful annual FND Masterclass, now in its fourth year. This event attracts a local and national audience of health care professionals across a wide range of disciplines.
  • FND information group for patients and carers – setting up a functional neurological disorders education groups to improve patients’ and carers’ understanding and confidence in self-management. This work won the category for value-based education in the King’s Health Partners Education Academy Awards.

The most recent educational offer has been to develop online training materials in FND, dissociative seizures and functional motor disorders for health care professionals.  These are available on our Learning Hub.

Where did the idea for the online training materials come from?

The idea for these stemmed from a conversation I had with our then Darzi Fellow, Dr Kit Wu, who was developing online modules for other neurological conditions. What appealed most about this approach was the flexibility it offered for users to learn about the conditions at a convenient time.  We hope this will make it accessible to staff working in services such as emergency departments and general medical wards. It also helps to raise awareness of the expertise here at King’s Health Partners.  We have one of the largest neuropsychiatry groups in the UK, leading the way in research and clinical services in this condition, so we hope to be leading the way in education too.

What are the next steps for the education and training being offered?

To build on the current online resources which provide an introduction to FND, Dr Stanton hopes to develop a more comprehensive library of material which could include training in other areas, such as functional speech disorders and functional cognitive symptoms. The group is also looking into how the service user voice can further shape  courses and raise further awareness about FND with the general public.

To find out more about the work that is being developed in the FND group and through the Institute of Psychiatry and Psychology and Neurosciences Neuropsychiatry Research and Education Group follow @IoPPN_NREG.

At King’s Health Partners Neurosciences we are using our collective expertise to become a global top ten Neurosciences Institute, demonstrated through excellence in research, education and clinical practice.