Rheumatoid Arthritis: Nurses Manage the Disease Well

Photo: Nurse and patient

Patients attending clinical nurse spe-
cialist clinics do not get inferior treat-
ment to that offered by consultant rheumatologists; © panthermedia.net/
Miriam Dörr

Patients attending clinical nurse specialist clinics do not get inferior treatment to that offered by consultant rheumatologists, the results of a major new clinical trial have revealed.

The results of the multi-centre trial at the University of Leeds, funded by Arthritis Research UK, showed that there may be some clinical benefit to people with rheumatoid arthritis, whose condition is managed in clinics run by rheumatology clinical nurse specialists, especially with respect to their disease activity, pain control, physical function and general satisfaction with their care.

The nation-wide trial was led by Dr. Mwidimi Ndosi, of the University's Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine, and former University academic Dr. Jackie Hill. It compared the outcomes of 180 people with rheumatoid arthritis in 10 out-patient clinics around the UK, half run by clinical nurse specialists, and the other by rheumatologists. In both groups the nurse or doctor took a patient history, carried out a physical examination, discussed pain control, change of drugs or dose (including steroid injections) and offered patient education and psychosocial support. The nurse-led clinics' appointment times were on average longer than the consultants' (20 vs. 15 minutes).

The results of the study found that although the nurses made fewer changes to a patient's medication and ordered fewer x-rays and steroid injections, their patients saw greater improvement in disease activity than those under rheumatologists' care. Nurses also provided patient education and psychosocial support more frequently than rheumatologists, and their patients also had fewer unplanned hospital admissions or visits to accident and emergency units. "The results of this study show that clinics run by rheumatology clinical nurse specialists can manage many people with rheumatoid arthritis without any reduction in the quality of care and treatment," said Ndosi.

In addition to better improvements in the disease activity, nurse-led clinics had overall lower healthcare costs, representing a cost-effective service. The economic evaluation took into account healthcare resource use, including consultation costs, investigations, hospital admissions and treatments including over-the-counter medications.

"The development of the role of clinical nurse specialist in rheumatology has resulted in great improvements in rheumatology service, providing a high quality, accessible and person-centred care to people with rheumatoid arthritis," said Hill. "The results of this research are encouraging, demonstrating that this model of care is effective, safe, and associated with more patient satisfaction. At a time when deficiencies have come to light in some areas of the NHS, it is good to know that in rheumatology there are high levels of satisfaction with the care we provide."

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Leeds