Sheffield Teaching Hospitals named regional champions at NHS Parliamentary Awards

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been named a winner in the Yorkshire and Humber NHS Parliamentary Awards Future NHS Award.

They will now go on to represent the region at the national awards ceremony at the House of Commons on Wednesday 10 July.

The AHSCT team led by Professor Basil Sharrack, consultant neurologist and director of MS research and Professor John Snowden, consultant haematologist and director of the transplantation programme at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, were nominated by MP Clive Betts after pioneering the use of a breakthrough treatment which is the first to significantly to reverse disability in certain patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).

The treatment, which is known as autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT), has been shown to stabilise the disease and reduce disability in interim trial results published from the worldwide MIST trial, of which Sheffield is the sole UK site, early last year.

AHSCT aims to stop the damage caused by multiple sclerosis by first ‘wiping out’ the faulty immune cells that are causing the MS with a high dose of chemotherapy. Once destroyed, the faulty immune system is then rebuilt using blood and bone marrow stem cells taken from the patient’s own blood prior to chemotherapy. The regenerating immune system is then effectively ‘rebooted’. It is this mechanism that allows the inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that causes problems with mobility, balance, cognition and pain, to subside and heal.

So far the treatment has had a life-changing impact on a number of patients who have the relapsing remitting form of the disease, with some now able to walk, run and even dance as a result.

One patient to benefit is Louise Willetts, 36, from Rotherham. Louise was diagnosed with MS in 2010 at the age of 28 and lived in fear of the next relapse. On the worst occasions she couldn’t even get out of bed due to the fact that she had no stability in her body, and spent time in a wheelchair because she struggled to walk. 
However, the results of a follow-up MRI scan taken a year after she had the treatment showed she had no active signs of the disease. “I feel like my diagnosis was just a bad dream,” she said. “I live every day as I want to, rather than planning my life around my MS. It feels like a miracle”.

Dr David Hughes, Medical Director for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are immensely proud that the Autologous Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (AHSCT) team have been named as regional winners of the NHS Parliamentary Awards 2019’s Future NHS Award. By uniquely combining their specialist fields of neurology and haematology, the team, led by Professor Basil Sharrack and Professor John Snowden, have played an inspirational role in pioneering a new breakthrough treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS), which is the first to significantly reverse disability of patients with the active form of the disease.”

MS affects 100,000 people in the UK and 2.3 million people globally. The MIST trial is assessing the long-term impact of AHSCT.

The NHS Parliamentary Awards were launched in March this year and recognise the contribution made by individuals who work in and alongside the NHS. MPs were called upon to find and nominate those individuals or teams they thought have made the biggest improvements to health and care services in their constituencies across ten categories.

The final stage of judging will take place at a ceremony to be held on Wednesday 10 July at the House of Commons. The ceremony will be hosted by Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee.

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