We've co-funded a COVID-19 study with Versus Arthritis looking at the effects of lockdown for those with arthritis or other long-term musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions such as psoriatic arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis and chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia.
The study is led by our Heberden Committee Chair Prof Gary Macfarlane at the University of Aberdeen. Around 2000 patients across the UK will be sent questionnaires, and some will be followed up with in-depth interviews. The study will also feed into future discussions about how to integrate virtual consultations into regular NHS healthcare.
Prof Macfarlane explains: "Understandably there has been a primary focus on undertaking research directly related to Covid-19 but we also risk forgetting people with chronic diseases just at a time when their need is greatest and with severely reduced services.
"We know that two key aspects of MSK health are taking exercise and maintaining good mental health. The ability to take exercise is likely to have been restricted. while mental health is likely to be affected by the anxiety around the pandemic generally,together with concerns about one’s own health as well as the effects of social isolation."
Other changes may include workplace environment (from those working on the frontline to those at home, others who will have been furloughed or lost their job), as well as care.
Prof Macfarlane adds: "Patients will have experienced a radical re-organisation of their healthcare, with almost all consultations moving online. As a result, there will be reductions in access to some services, such as physiotherapy, and procedures, such as injections, just at a time when patient need may be greatest. In addition, some patients will have been categorised in high-risk groups and received letters in relation to 'shielding' which requires them to stay at home."