Over 90% of Scottish health professionals working in rheumatology units considered their service to not be sufficiently staffed. This is one of the key findings of the report Rheumatology in Scotland: The State of Play which is launched today, based on a survey of members of the Scottish Society for Rheumatology (SSR) and the British Society for Rheumatology (BSR). These bodies represent the healthcare professionals caring for patients with conditions as diverse as rheumatoid arthritis, gout and lupus. Roles considered the most understaffed included specialist nurses, rheumatology trainees and allied health professionals. 

Other key findings in Rheumatology in Scotland: The State of Play include:

  • 88% felt Scotland’s rural geography creates challenges for patient access to rheumatology services.
  • Only a quarter reported their rheumatology service working in the community, and just 9% stated there was collaboration with social services.
  • Just 31% believed that services were adequately addressing the need of patients with rare rheumatic conditions
  • 89% recommended that training to identify rheumatic conditions needed to be spread more widely to other health and care professionals
  • Only 26% of respondents believed their service ensured that accurate and detailed data were collected about patient activity, diagnoses and outcomes.

In response to the feedback received from its membership, the BSR and SSR make a series of recommendations in Rheumatology in Scotland: The State of Play to improve the delivery of care. This includes exposure to rheumatology services and emphasis on rheumatic and musculoskeletal disorders (RMDs) throughout general medical and GP training, to improve referral rates, provide GPs with confidence in providing self-care and increase recruitment into the speciality.  In terms of staffing, the BSR and the SSR recommend a review of medical staffing levels to address the apparent consultant shortfall in targeted areas, and ring fencing funding for specialised rheumatology nurses and AHPs. 

Examples of best practice are included in the report, such as the SSR’s online audit and the Scottish Paediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology Network both of which are winners in the BSR’s Best Practice Awards 2016. 

SSR President, Dr Elizabeth Murphy, noted “This report helps shine a light on the key challenges facing rheumatology services in delivering care to patients across Scotland. Despite these challenges, our members continue to provide high quality services to their patients, which is a testament to their hard work and endeavour. The last decade has seen enormous advances in the drug treatments available for our patients and we need to ensure that our services are set up to deliver these treatments to the maximum benefit of patients. A number of issues have emerged, which if ignored, could result in poorer outcomes for patients. The report sets out a series of recommendations to address these issues and the SSR and BSR will look to work with policy makers, Rheumatology teams and patients from across Scotland on how to take these forward.” 

BSR President, Professor Simon Bowman added “The Rheumatology in Scotland report provides a real insight into the pressures facing rheumatology services, but also offers practical solutions on how to overcome them. Much can be learnt from our members in Scotland on how to address these issues and we urge policy makers to work with patients and professionals to rise to the significant challenges outlined in this report.”

The full report is available to download now and BSR intends to produce similar reports for Wales and Northern Ireland to further provide insight in rheumatology services across the four nations.

Comments are closed.