Virtual education and specialist understanding amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

Article provided by The MS Academy

Today, our NHS is focussed on one thing: response to COVID-19. With the ‘Your NHS Needs You’ campaign announced yesterday and an additional 50,000 formerly registered nurses and 15,500 ex-doctors expected to be contacted as part of the rallying call, it is no surprise that existing front-line staff are being deployed away from their specialities to focus their efforts on the worst  health crisis since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

Around the world, medical congresses and conferences, meetings and courses are being cancelled not only to eliminate gatherings of people but to avoid detracting from the crisis at hand. Whilst virtual consultations and telecare are being employed wherever possible, there is scope to do more virtually. Equally, whilst it is undoubtedly essential that our NHS workforce is focussed on prevention of infection, and the treatment, management and rehabilitation of people  with severe coronavirus infection, we still need to ensure that necessary education continues to be made available and is accessible by health professionals.

Drawing on specialist staff for generalist care may be necessary, but those specialist staff also need to be equipped to support people under their speciality  too. For example, those living with Parkinson’s are likely to form a large proportion of the over 70’s population who have been asked to self-isolate for the coming 12 weeks or more, in a bid to prevent them from catching coronavirus. How do we support their medical management to ensure they do not develop urinary tract infections or suffer falls whilst at home alone?

Those with multiple sclerosis (MS) who are currently undergoing disease-modifying treatment (DMTs) may have compromised  immune systems or even be lymphopaenic. If they are self-isolated, how do we ensure they are being appropriately monitored for other infections or to the delayed complications of some of their disease-modifying therapies? How do we reduce their risk from COVID-19 whilst undergoing monitoring?

It is essential that specialist staff, like specialist nurses, community neurological teams, falls and frailty centres, and consultant neurologists and geriatricians all be available to their current patients in order to prevent at-risk people from coming into contact with coronavirus, even as it is important that the workforce as a whole pull together to support the NHS.

Everyone has a role to play during this crisis either as an individual, organisation or business.. Educational providers such as Neurology Academy want to ensure that those living with a neurological condition continue to receive the best possible care they can in these extraordinary circumstances. MS Academy is contributing by providing short, topical webinars on relevant topics.

Aimed at professionals in order to maximise the safety and health of those living with neurological conditions, the first two webinars run this week: ‘Managing MS remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic’ and ‘The use of biomarkers and CSF analysis during the COVID-19 pandemic’, were signed up for by over 110 healthcare professionals; 46 professionals attended the webinar and discussion live and over 260 have viewed the footage to date. Their plan is to continue to host these interactive webinars on essential care and management topics in relation to COVID-19 across a range of conditions, and to ensure all webinars are available online to those unable to attend in real-time.

Professor Gavin Giovannoni, educational director for MS Academy, says, ‘It is vital that we think laterally, using existing technologies to make sure our patients get the best possible care under the current circumstances. By hosting virtual meetings, which are safe, we are pioneering a new format to ensure rapid-learning and the sharing of best practice amongst healthcare professionals. With any crisis come opportunities to change the way we work. Who knows, after the dust settles we may have invented a new model of healthcare.’

As Dr Peter Fletcher, education director for Parkinson’s Academy, has pointed out, ‘as the Covid-19 pandemic escalates, those with long-term neurological conditions are particularly at risk. Developing clinicians’ knowledge, skills and working practices is urgent. The immediacy of interactive webinars that address clinicians questions, concerns and learning needs is very timely.’

Neurology Academy is aware that professionals’ minds are very focussed on the pandemic at present and have therefore postponed their range of MasterClasses to the latter part of the year (Table 1). However, the Academy is considering providing some of the sessions in the coming months using an alternative format. For example, course group MS9.2 will present their intermodule project posters virtually so that their learning can be shared with their peers. Their interactive sessions will then follow later in the year.

However, with short 2-minute educational vlogs from patients in the pipeline, and virtually-delivered interactive educational sessions already developed as part of the Leadership MasterClass, the Academy is ready to continue to support healthcare professionals in the future, in whatever format is most needed.

Table 1: List of dates for postponed Neurology Academy MasterClasses and rapid-access webinars

Course or webinar

(New) date scheduled

Further information

MS Foundation MC 10 Module 1

17-19 Sept 2020

Module 2 TBC

MS Intermediate MC 11 Module 1

7-9 Oct 2020

Module 2 TBC

Parkinson’s Advanced MC Module 1

29 & 30 Sept 2020


Parkinson’s Advanced MC Module 2

8 & 9 Dec 2020


Dementia 7


Postponed until further notice

Alzheimer’s Module 1

3 & 4 December 2020

Module 2 TBC

Webinar: HSCT for MS during the COVID-19 pandemic

25th March 2020

Prof Basil Sharrack, Consultant Neurologist & Prof John Snowden, Consultant Haematologist, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Webinar: Prescribing remotely and de-risking pharmacovigilance during the COVID-19 pandemic

Date tbc – register online 

Joela Mathews, Neuroscience Pharmacist, Barts Health NHS Trust

Webinar debate session: Should ocrelizumab and cladribine be treated in the same way as alemtuzumab in terms of risk of COVID-19?

Tuesday, 31 March 2020 · 12:00

Prof Klaus Schmierer & Prof David Baker, Professors of Neurology, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry

Webinar: MS nurses – Neuropsychologist session – How MS nurses can best care for their patients, their colleagues and themselves

Date tbc – register online 


#MSCovid19 Question Time

Friday, 27 March 2020 · 16:00

Prof Gavin Giovannoni, David Martin, George Pepper, Philip Anderson & Rachel Dorsey-Campbell

All future webinars will be accessible via