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Specialist HD staff appointed to support families in Dumfries & Galloway

Development of specialist services for families living in south west Scotland have taken a major step forward with the appointment of an HD Clinical Lead in Dumfries & Galloway and moves to recruit an HD Specialist.

The decision by NHS Dumfries & Galloway to fund the HD Specialist post follows work on the Dumfries & Galloway Care Framework for HD, the localised version of the National Framework.

Pioneered by SHA to ensure families receive the best care and support, regardless of where they live in Scotland, it highlighted crucial gaps in services for HD families in Dumfries & Galloway.

Now newly-recruited HD Clinical Lead, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist Dr John Higgon, is in post and looking forward to meeting families in the area.

He said: “Huntington’s disease places a tremendous burden on families and, because it’s rare, there’s little understanding about it amongst the general public. As a psychologist, I’m aware it’s the psychological and social, as much as the medical and neurological problems, that contribute to this burden.

“Dumfries and Galloway is a relatively small health board and the number of families with HD is not high. Because we won’t have a dedicated multi-disciplinary HD team, much of the service will be provided through a ‘virtual team’ made up of existing rehabilitation team members.

“We are delighted, however, that a new part-time HD Specialist post has been funded, and I am looking forward to developing the service with the successful candidate.”

Dr Higgon is committed to providing a personal service that works for individuals and families.

“I look forward to meeting our Huntington’s families over the course of the next few months. Getting to know them means we should be able to provide a highly tailored approach that fits each individual’s circumstances,” he said.

“The National Care Framework for HD developed by the Scottish Huntington’s Association will certainly be useful in ensuring that the various elements of care – medical, psychological, social – are properly considered.”

SHA National Care Framework Lead, Alistair Haw, has welcomed the move.

“The Dumfries & Galloway Care Framework for Huntington’s Disease is complete and can be viewed on care.hdscotland.org” he said.

“Scottish Borders is therefore the only remaining mainland NHS Board area without a local Framework and specialist staff. SHA continues to work with Scottish Borders on this and is hopeful of having something in place before long.”

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