NNUH consultant recognised for national awareness campaign on back pain

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NNUH) Rheumatology department, together with the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS), has been recognised for the work it has done to raise GP awareness and understanding of inflammatory back pain and Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) in particular.

The hospital’s rheumatology team, working with colleagues from NASS and The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath, created an awareness campaign to educate healthcare professionals working in primary care about inflammatory back pain.

The campaign was led by NNUH’s Clinical Director for Rheumatology, Dr Karl Gaffney, who is a trustee and medical advisor to NASS. The aim was to educate one thousand health care professionals such as GPs, physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors about inflammatory back pain so that patients receive an appropriate referral to specialist rheumatologists within hospitals.

Inflammatory back pain is one of the key symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). However as lower back pain is very common but inflammatory back pain is relatively rare, it can often get missed. Awareness of AS in the UK is low. On average the delay from onset of symptoms to diagnosis of AS is 8.5 years and 20% of patients with AS wait for more than ten years for a correct diagnosis. By this time symptoms have often become chronic and disabling and irreversible spinal changes can have begun. The awareness campaign was designed to help more patients get an early diagnosis so they can be referred on for the specialist treatment they need.

As part of the campaign the team held several seminars across the UK and feedback from over 450 attendees was extremely positive, with 95% of delegates reporting that the meetings would be completely or considerably likely to change their clinical practice. The team also devised a ‘meeting in a box’ which included all the materials for the Back Pain Seminar on a CD-Rom. These can then be used or adapted by rheumatologists from around the UK to run the seminar in their local area. The programme has been shortlisted for the British Society of Rheumatology ‘Best Service Practice’ award 2013.

Dr Karl Gaffney, Consultant Rheumatologist at NNUH, said: “Living with chronic inflammatory back pain can be really debilitating for many people and can affect their lives in so many ways from the hobbies they can do, to their work life, and even relationships.

“We are thrilled that the work we’ve undertaken to help patients get an early diagnosis has been shortlisted for this award. We’ve received excellent feedback about the seminars so far and we believe they are already helping to reduce the diagnosis times faced by many people with AS in the UK.”

Matthew Gray from Attleborough developed swelling in his knee whilst on holiday 14 years ago and since then received conflicting advice from healthcare professionals about his condition. He said: “I came back from holiday and saw my GP and was just given anti-inflammatories. Over the years I had pain in my neck, back and pelvis and some people told me it could be AS but others said I definitely didn’t have it.

He added: “I first saw Dr Gaffney in 2010 and he confirmed the diagnosis and put me on some new drugs. They are so effective; they really have been life changing. I can run around after my sons and pick them up now, something I didn’t think would be possible a few years ago.”

Wednesday 21st of August 2013 10:00:05 AM