Aspiring to excellence team

Rheumatology team chosen for Aspiring to Excellence programme

Experts at Salford Royal are aiming to improve the lives of hundreds of patients with axial spondyloarthritis, a painful and disabling inflammatory condition that affects the spine and joints.

As many as one in 200 people may have axial spondyloarthritis (axial SpA) but although it is common, it takes an average eight and half years for people with the condition to receive a diagnosis. The average age of onset is just 24 years old.

Inflammation where muscles attach to the bones causes extreme pain and fatigue and if left untreated, it can permanently fuse bones. Nearly six in 10 people with axial SpA also report experiencing mental health problems.

Salford Royal’s rheumatology team see around 300 people a year with the condition and are able to offer a range of treatments, including medication and physiotherapy to lessen symptoms.

Consultant physiotherapist Will Gregory (pictured) runs a weekly clinic for axial SpA patients and will lead a multi-disciplinary team of colleagues who have been awarded a place on the prestigious Aspiring to Excellence programme. This quality improvement initiative unites hospital teams across the UK to create a network of knowledge, with the aim of improving treatment and care for patients with axial SpA.

It is a strategic partnership between the National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society (NASS) and BRIT SpA in partnership with the NHS Transformation Unit and sponsoring companies AbbVie, Biogen, Eli Lilly, Novartis and UCB.

Selected through a competitive process, teams from hospitals across the UK work together in a national peer-learning network to develop and embed stronger pathways of care. The programme provides a new strategic platform from which professionals can explore and test approaches to reducing the delay to diagnosis and improving treatment and care for patients with axial SpA.

Mr Gregory is working alongside Helen Atkinson – biologics specialist nurse, Katy Porthouse – highly specialist physiotherapist, Dr Audrey Low – consultant rheumatologist, Dr Meghna Jani – consultant rheumatologist and Paul Barratt – consultant physiotherapist, on the programme.

He said: “We aim to bring big benefits not just to the 300 patients currently under our care but also to many others by finding those with early axial SpA sooner so they can start on the treatments and exercise programmes that can make a big difference to their quality of life.

“Modern, evidence-based treatments have revolutionised how we can help people living with axial SpA. We are fortunate at Salford to have a broad team caring for those living with axials SpA and consistently see good results achieved from the treatments offered. Axial SpA is a life-long condition and our rheumatology team are available for short-term flare ups and for the much longer-term management and care. Our project across Salford and beyond will allow more timely access to diagnostics and management as well as ensuring we get the best outcomes for all under our care.”

Dr Dale Webb, CEO at NASS, said: “By securing their position on the Aspiring to Excellence programme, the team at Salford Royal have proven they have the skills, experience and desire to share insights and learn from others to transform care for patients with axial SpA. These teams will work together to galvanize new processes and bring together departments to innovate care. This is an important step towards reducing diagnosis times for patients and we are proud of the team at Salford Royal for embarking on this journey with their peers. Together, we will ensure patients with axial SpA receive a swift diagnosis so that they can live well with the condition.”