05 August 2022

BSR President Sanjeev Patel recently attended a RheumACaN meeting to present certificates to participants of the education initiative. We took the opportunity to learn more about the programme from its creator Dr Antoni Chan and some of the attendees.

So Dr Chan, what exactly is RheumACaN?

The Rheumatology Academy and Collaborative Network (RheumACaN) offers a series of learning events for GPs from Primary Care Networks, ESPs and FCPs. It brings Best MSK, NICE, GIRFT and BSR guidance into practice and showcases examples of rheumatology best practice.

Tell us how it all started

We wanted to build on our integration work with our primary care partners, our GPs, our first contact practitioners, our specialist physiotherapists in a more formal way. So rather than relying on old referral systems, we wanted to actually have a dialogue and discussions on how to improve our referrals and also how to manage our rheumatology patients better when they’re not in the clinic.

What impact will be seen from this education work?
Feedback from participants shows us that there’ll be changes in practice and how primary care refer into rheumatology. We’re also seeing lots of take up of our train the trainer approach so GPs and physios in this cohort are going to train their peers and will return to help us deliver future cohorts.

Have there been any surprises along the way?

I’ve been so encouraged by the enthusiasm every session. In between the formal learning/meetings there’s been a high level of self-learning and our rheumatology mentors have been put to good use.

Why is this type of link with primary care so important for rheumatology?

As the NHS is expanding, we have to work within systems or partnerships, we can’t work in silos anymore. It’s about improvement for our patients as well, that they’re not moving between pillar and post, they’re not circling the system, that our systems are more joined up.

We also spoke to participants Rebecca (GP) and Lucy (Clinical lead physiotherapist) about their experiences:

What made you start the programme?
Rebecca – it’s a good opportunity to learn more about local rheumatology networks and meet the teams at local hospitals.

What impact will this have for you, your colleagues and patients?
Rebecca – learning about different pathways from people in different roles opens up alternative ways to assess patients, learn from case studies and means I’m more confident with rheumatology patients.
Lucy – It’s boosted my confidence to recognise symptoms which is so important to cut down average times between presentation and diagnosis. In my role it also means I can pass on knowledge to junior team members.

Why is this link with primary care so important for rheumatology?
Rebecca – rheumatology patients are complex and there are so many aspects to their conditions that primary care doctors can really help with. Hearing experiences of rheumatology consultants and what makes a good GP referral is so valuable.
Lucy – rheumatology can be a misunderstood and daunting area, especially if you’re not a medic. Rheumatology has often been thought of as a few blokes in suits sat in offices doing really medical stuff, so bridging the gap between primary care, secondary care and everyone that sits in between breaks down those perceptions.

If you'd like to be involved in future of the RheumACaN programme, keep an eye on our monthly membership newsletter for dates.