Quality statement 4: Rapid access to specialist care

Quality statement

Adults with rheumatoid arthritis and disease flares or possible treatment-related side effects receive advice within 1-working-day of contacting rheumatology services. [2013, updated 2020]

Rationale

It is important that adults with rheumatoid arthritis and disease flares or treatment-related side effects can access rheumatology services rapidly to prevent any further joint damage. Rapid involvement of a specialist is essential for patient safety when there are side effects related to treatment. People may also need advice from members of the multidisciplinary team such as physiotherapists or occupational therapists, when they are having difficulties with activities of daily living.

Quality measures

Structure

a) Evidence of local arrangements for adults with rheumatoid arthritis to contact rheumatology services.

Data source: Local data collection, for example, service protocols. The National Early Inflammatory Arthritis Audit collects data on rheumatology services that provide contact details for a specialist advice line.

b) Evidence of availability of staff to give advice to adults with rheumatoid arthritis when they contact rheumatology services.

Data source: Local data collection, for example, staffing rotas.

Process

Proportion of adults with rheumatoid arthritis who receive advice from rheumatology services within 1 working day when experiencing a disease flare or possible treatment-related side effects.

Numerator – the number in the denominator who receive advice from rheumatology services within 1 working day.

Denominator – the number of adults with rheumatoid arthritis and a disease flare or possible treatment-related side effects who contact rheumatology services.

Data source: The National Early Inflammatory Arthritis Audit collects data on rheumatology services offering access to urgent rheumatology advice within 1 working day.

Outcome

a) Disease activity for adults with rheumatoid arthritis.

Data source: The National Early Inflammatory Arthritis Audit collects data on mean disease activity score (DAS28) at baseline, 3-month and 12-month follow-up.

b) Functional ability of adults with rheumatoid arthritis.

Data source: The National Early Inflammatory Arthritis Audit collects data on functional ability in the patient questionnaire at baseline, 3-month and 12-month follow-up.

What the quality statement means for different audiences

Service providers (such as rheumatology services) ensure that staff are available to give advice to adults with rheumatoid arthritis within 1 working day when they are experiencing disease flares or possible treatment-related side effects.

Healthcare professionals (such as rheumatology consultants, specialist nurses and allied health professionals) give advice within 1 working day when contacted by people with rheumatoid arthritis who have a disease flare or possible treatment-related side effects.

Commissioners (such as clinical commissioning groups) commission rheumatology services that have capacity to give advice when people with rheumatoid arthritis contact the service.

Adults with rheumatoid arthritis know who to contact and how to get advice quickly when they have a flare up of their condition or they have possible side effects from treatment.

Source guidance