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In the last of our series showcasing our Best Practice Award winners, we talk to the rheumatology team at North Bristol NHS Trust, who developed an education programme to help support arthritis patients.

The rheumatology team at North Bristol NHS Trust won their Best Practice Award for their Living Well Pathway, developed to help patients living with inflammatory arthritis. The course was designed to support both physical and psychological wellbeing, empowering patients to feel more in control of their health.

The project

The project was set up to incorporate NICE guidelines,  which state that patients should be offered education and self-management within one month of diagnosis and should be helped to adjust to their condition. The pathway is split into two parts; a Living Well event for newly diagnosed patients and a Living Well course for people who have been diagnosed for a year or more.

Clinical psychologist Kate Druett, who helped set the programme up, said: “We wanted to make sure all our patients were aware of the different services available within our team to support them. We also wanted to be holistic and supportive in terms of both physical and emotional wellbeing.”

The Living Well event has seen 77 patients attend since it began in March 2017:

  • It's signposting and information session giving patients the opportunity to meet the rheumatology team and other patients with inflammatory arthritis

  • During a series of interactive talks, patients can ask questions and find out what support is available, as well as what might help with managing their condition

  • These run for 2.5 hours every other month and alternate between a morning or evening slot so it’s accessible for people who work.

Attendees have found the inclusion of a talk by a patient volunteer particularly valuable; this provides a picture of their own experience, a talk about what they have found helpful in learning to live with the condition, and offers hope for the future.

The Living Well course was completed by 56 patients between October 2017-September 2019. It:

  • Is aimed at helping patients who are at least one-year post diagnosis cope with their symptoms

  • Weekly course, seven sessions of 2.5 hours each

  • Includes a two-month 'reunion' follow-up

  • Covers issues like fatigue, stress, keeping active, and goal-setting.

Kate explains: “We interchange who runs the course amongst the team, but we have representatives from Specialist Nursing, Occupational Therapy and Psychology.” 

Another key element is the social aspect and patients supporting each other in the community once the course comes to an end. Kate says: “Patients are encouraged to meet informally amongst themselves to help keep the momentum going and put what they've learnt into practice.”

Following the course, many patients have reported an increase in confidence in knowing where to get help with their condition and have seen improvements in their mood.

Kate says: “One of the key benefits we’ve seen is that people report a lift in their confidence. Before the course patients may have been struggling with fatigue or pain for some time and lost a lot of their confidence. They often tell us they feel low and isolated, finding day-to-day activities difficult, and often feel quite stuck.”

She continues: “It’s been rewarding to hear how people have really valued the opportunity to meet and learn from others. Patients have often made many changes, such as taking regular time for themselves to swim or get back to day-to-day activities they used to enjoy, such as cooking. Others made changes at work so that it's more manageable, or made plans to return to work.”

The team use an active and supportive group of volunteers to help them run the signposting event. Feedback and discussion with previous participants help with continued reviewing of the course content

Kate explains: “They've contributed to the content based on their experience of what would have been helpful to them when they were diagnosed. We know people find strength and encouragement from hearing from other patients who have been through similar circumstances.” 

What happens next?

Post-pandemic, the team will restart the courses and will look at putting some of the content online.

Kate says: “We’ve recorded some short films with our participants so that they can be used on our website to encourage other patients to get involved. Plus, we want to get some of the other useful information online.”.

What did the judges say?

The judges commended the team for helping patients take control of their health and have better outcomes.

BSR’s Chief Executive, Ali Rivett, says: “I was particularly impressed by how patient-focused this initiative was. Patients are involved in the design and delivery of the programme, alongside their AHP team. Participant feedback is positive, with reported increases in patient activation measures alongside other key metrics.”

Congratulations to all our winners, who are working hard to improve the lives of patients.

Best Practice Awards