RHEUMATOLOGY: Early referral vital

Early referral and assessment by rheumatology services is vital in preventing disability. However, a British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) report shows that many patients in England and Wales are experiencing long waiting times, which fall outside of the recommended guidelines and standards developed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

The report identifies that although most services offer prompt educational support and agree targets for treatment with their patients, only one quarter of services achieve the agreed targets within 3 months of follow-up.

Key findings include:

  • 1 in 6 patients were referred by their GP to rheumatology services within 3 days, (NICE Quality Standard 1); one quarter of patients, however, waited more than 3 months to be referred
  • 38% of patients were seen by rheumatology services within 3 weeks of referral (NICE Quality Standard 2)
  • More than half of patients were treated with disease modifying drugs within 6 weeks, irrespective of whether they were seen within 3 weeks of referral (NICE Quality Standard 3).

For more on this story and links to the report, visit the medicalnewstoday.com website

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