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The National Early Inflammatory Arthritis Audit (NEIAA) has won the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership's Richard Driscoll Memorial Award in recognition of its excellent patient and public involvement.

This year’s award focused on the restraints imposed by COVID-19 and the national lockdown. The judges were impressed with the project’s adaptability during the lockdown and that the team showed clear evidence that changes made will have a real ongoing impact to the audit.

The patient panel, consisting of nine patient representatives and one coordinator, plays an important role in the NEIAA and, therefore, adapting to continue to engage with the panel during the pandemic was important. As well as continuing with all scheduled meetings, the group completed other pieces of work and contributed to several workstreams within the audit.

Over the last few months, the group designed a framework for a COVID-19-friendly Early Inflammatory Arthritis (EIA) service, supported NEIAA’s quality improvement plans, contributed to online education for clinical teams, the second annual report and the development of a new online data collection process.

Paul Amlani-Hatcher, chair of the NEIAA patient panel, said: “It's wonderful that BSR encourages patients to have a voice in the NEIA audit and I'm sure that this voice adds a lot of value to the study. The onset of COVID-19 threatened this voice but I'm pleased to say, that with the support of BSR, we continue to function as a patient panel through greater use of telephone, video and email platforms.

"While we all look forward to the day we can again meet in-person, I’m sure that we'll continue to use remote working tools as well, as they minimise travel requirements which can be quite taxing for people with immune illnesses”.

The framework for the COVID-19-friendly EIA service, to be published in the near future, considers a patient's perspective on a range of areas to consider before, during and after a consultation. This includes information provided prior to the first appointment, how to optimise remote early arthritis consultations for patients, technology considerations during remote consultations, and more.

The NEIAA's patient panel continues to play a key role in the audit, and you can hear more about the patient perspective from our patient panel chair at Annual Conference 2021.