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BSR and RCGP launch initiative to improve care pathways for people living with inflammatory arthritis

BSR and the RCGP have today launched a joint Quality Improvement project to improve care for people living with inflammatory arthritis. The joint project will deliver a suite of online resources to help improve pathways between primary and secondary care, with a focus on reducing delays to diagnosis and creating standardised shared care agreements. The recent National Clinical Audit for rheumatoid and early inflammatory arthritis revealed delays in referral from primary care to specialist treatment for people with suspected inflammatory arthritis, with only 17% of cases being referred within the three days recommended by NICE.  Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to prevent joint and organ damage and reduce potential disability.

Furthermore, once people are established on a treatment plan, their care is shared between primary and specialist care through joint agreements on prescribing and monitoring of high-risk drugs such as Methotrexate.  These shared care agreements are numerous and vary from locality to locality; there is therefore an opportunity to reduce risk by standardising and streamlining these agreements.

This one-year initiative will be led by the newly appointed RCGP Clinical Champion for Inflammatory Arthritis, Dr Danny Murphy, a GP principal in Devon with a special interest in rheumatology, who also works as a part-time staff-grade rheumatologist at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. In addition to various research projects in rheumatology, Danny has also advised on the development of the recent BSR guideline on Biologics for the Treatment of Axial Spondyloarthritis.

Inflammatory arthritis affects close to a million people in the UK and includes conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Axial Spondyloarthritis and Psoriatic Arthritis. This project, in conjunction with the ongoing work through the national audit, will make a significant impact on care for people living with these conditions. 

Commenting on the collaboration, BSR President, Dr Peter Lanyon, said:

“This new collaboration between BSR and the RCGP is a really important strategic initiative, aiming to improve the care pathways for people who live with inflammatory arthritis. We greatly welcome the appointment of Dr Murphy as the first ever RCGP Clinical Champion for Inflammatory Arthritis. This will undoubtedly raise awareness of these conditions across the RCGP membership and beyond. It’s a great opportunity for clinicians in primary and secondary care to work more closely together to develop national solutions to help reduce delays to diagnosis and deliver better co-ordinated care. 

This is a view echoed by Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP, who stated: “We’re delighted that the College is partnering with BSR to raise awareness of this important clinical area in general practice. This collaborative project aims to support our members and their practice teams in the identification and appropriate management for patients living with Inflammatory Arthritis throughout the UK. I look forward to being involved in this project, and following its progress and the impact it has on GPs, our teams and our patients.”

Expressing his honour at being appointed, Dr Danny Murphy, the new Clinical Champion remarked, “I am very proud to be the RCGP’s first Clinical Champion for Inflammatory Arthritis, and am looking forward to working closely with the RCGP and BSR over the next year. Our aim for this project is to empower primary care practitioners to deliver the best possible care to patients with Inflammatory Arthritis, by focusing on eLearning, curriculum updates and engagement with commissioners.” 


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