Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Rheumatology Voice - increasing arthritis awareness

Increasing Arthritis Awareness

Initiatives in 2014 to increase Arthritis Awareness

            The NHS landscape changed with the creation of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This means the greater need for collaboration between GPs, specialists and patients. Together, the aim is for new care pathways that deliver benefit to patients. In arthritis, key to the success of the care pathway is the early recognition of arthritis. This is done by increasing awareness of arthritis.

The benefits of increased awareness include earlier recognition, diagnosis, referral and treatment of a potentially painful and disabling condition. Earlier diagnosis and treatment will lead to better outcomes.

All of this work would not have been possible without the help of members of my rheumatology unit and the teams involved in the many events in 2014.  This includes patient groups who have been very supportive of the drive to increase arthritis awareness.

            Over 2014, my department hosted GP events that focused on topics that included early inflammatory arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, osteoporosis, gout and the spondyloarthropathies. This was geared for colleagues in primary care, to increase awareness and improve referral to specialists. It is important to approach this from the perspective of GPs. A recent posting by Paula Wright in the BMJ has been helpful

            In May, I chaired an Inflammatory Back Pain (IBP) seminar for GPs, nurses and physiotherapists. This is to increase awareness of IBP which is a feature of ankylosing spondylitis (AS). The message is that not all back is the same. Early detection of AS will improve long term outcomes.

With the team at the Back Pain Seminar

            In July, there was public engagement with the ‘Don’t Turn Your Back On It’ campaign. This initiative was supported by the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS). The team spoke to many people in Reading Town Centre on inflammatory back pain. There were acrobats to highlight the event on the day.

With Sue Hicks, Specialist Physiotherapist in Reading Town Centre

            In October, the Reading Fibromyalgia Society held their first anniversary celebration at Prospect Park Hospital in Reading. I and other members of the Rheumatology Team were able to support this. The event was attended by Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West and also by Cllr. Sarah Hacker, Reading Deputy Mayor. See their blogs on this event:

            In November, two seminars were held to increase awareness of arthritis. A public seminar was organised by the Royal Berkshire Hospital for members on early arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The event was also attended by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS)

With the NRAS at the Trust Public Seminar on rheumatoid arthritis

            In the same month, there was a GP teaching event on topics such as early referral to specialists, what to look out for, how to manage arthritis in primary care. There was also a practical session on how to perform the disease activity score 28 (DAS28), an outcome measure used in rheumatoid arthritis. We were supported by our local arthritis charity, Arthritis Matters for this event

GP Teaching event to increase awareness of arthritis

            November was a busy month as it was also the month that the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS) organised the parliamentary event to raise awareness of the need to increase access to physiotherapy. This is the next step of the NASS As It Is campaign

With Debbie Cook, NASS Director
At the NASS event with the team from Portsmouth

            In 2015, more such events are planned to continue the drive to increase awareness of arthritis. Rheumatology needs a voice and together, our efforts no matter how small or big, will go towards improving patient access and care. This is A Joint Venture.


Views are my own. These are opinions, not specific medical advice and cannot replace the need to see your physician for review of your individual medical condition.

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