A new nurse champion hopes to improve care for Crohn’s and Colitis sufferers across Norfolk

Kirsty Brooks, a nurse from Watlington Medical Practice, who has been made an IBD clinical champion

Kirsty Brooks, a nurse from Watlington Medical Practice, who has been made an IBD clinical champion for the East of England Picture: Chris Bishop - Credit: Archant

A nurse at a rural GP practice has been made a champion for patients with inflamed bowel disease.

Kirsty Brooks looked after people with Crohn's Disease and colitis in south London and Kent for six years before moving to the Watlington Medical Centre, near Downham Market, 18 months ago.

She said it was the impact on sufferers' lives, particularly those of younger people, that made her want to help them.

Now Ms Brooks has been made clinical champion for IBD across the East of England as part of the Spotlight Project launched by Crohn's and Colitis UK and the Royal College of GPs.

Its aims are to improve understanding of IBD and to produce a toolkit and educational materials which will help to speed up diagnosis and improve support for patients.

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'It's a common condition and at the moment it's not curable,' said Ms Brooks. 'It's a young person's illness and it seems to be on the increase - there's been a link with lifestyle, we're also becoming more knowledgeable about how to diagnose IBD.'

IBD symptoms can vary from diarrhoea, cramping pains in the abdomen, tiredness and fatigue, along with loss of appetite and loss of weight.

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Ms Brooks said patients needed holistic support to manage the condition.

'It's not only about medication, it's counselling, diet, nutrition,' she said. 'If you can meet that challenge of managing a lifelong disease with psychological and social support you make a difference for a patient.

'You see that person who was terribly ill go back to studying, go to work, have a family life, have children - it's hugely rewarding.' The medical centre serves 6,000 patients within a five-mile radius of Watlington, where there are around 20 villages.

Dr Ankit Kant, a partner at the practice, said around 50 of its patients suffered IBD.

In 2016, Watlington's nursing team was named national nursing team of the year.

Dr Kant said as well as an IBD nurse, the practice had a specialist breast care nurse and a paediatric nurse.

'We're quite lucky,' he said. 'We can tap on the door and get help with those difficult questions.'

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