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Dr Anu Jacob

RCP Excellence in Patient Care Awards 2016 winner – Consultant category

Dr Anu Jacob was the winner of the consultant or SAS doctor category at the RCP Excellence in Patient Care Awards 2016. He received the award for the improvement of care for patients with neuromyelitis optica (NMO) and the establishment of the world-renowned UK NMO service.

Dr Jacob discusses the impact he has had upon the lives of patients with NMO and what winning the award meant to him.

The winner's work

I am delighted to have won this award for improving the care of patients with the rare disease neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a relapsing autoimmune disease that can be catastrophic, leaving previously well people blind and paralysed. For centuries it was lumped in with multiple sclerosis, although NMO is far more severe and disabling.

I have been fortunate to follow and be part of the explosion of knowledge in this disease since becoming a research fellow in 2003, but major breakthroughs in the lab don’t get translated easily to improve the everyday life of people living with a condition in the community, especially in the case of such a rare disorder.

The UK NMO service was the first of its kind in the world and remains as a role model for countries trying to set up similar ones.

Dr Anu Jacob, Excellence in Patient Care Awards 2016 winner

Together with colleagues, we set up the UK NMO service. The service (now funded through the NHS highly specialised commissioning service) provides high-quality, up-to-date, evidence-based, multidisciplinary care to patients and families. It has produced guidelines unifying treatment approaches across the country, and has led an excellent research output with global impact. It offers training and education, increasing the number of healthcare professionals who can manage NMO well. Mortality and morbidity have improved significantly and we have facilitated the creation of a patient charity. The UK NMO service was the first of its kind in the world and remains as a role model for countries trying to set up similar ones.

There is much more work in NMO and related disorders that we aspire to do:

  • There are many diseases that are grouped under the ‘an atypical multiple sclerosis’ category that need to be characterised. Many may have previously unknown serum markers and at least some will evolve to be unique like NMO.
  • While I believe we have effective treatments with good evidence in the near future as ongoing clinical trials conclude, cost-effective treatments amid rising healthcare costs is an important goal.
  • Relapse prevention treatments in NMO may have come too late for patients already left disabled from past attacks and we have to join forces with scientists globally to restore spinal cord and optic nerve function.

Meet other Excellence in Patient Care Awards 2016 winners

The winners of the 2017 awards will be announced at Medicine 2017: RCP annual conference