Tags: aches, arthritis, diagnosis, doctor, general practitioner, GP, pain, patient access, practice manager, RA, referal, RF test, Rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatology
According to the Management in Practice website , which is a website for GP practice managers, the delay in getting patients proper rheumatoid arthritis treatment is the same as it was seven years ago. I suppose we should be grateful it hasn’t got worse!
Worryingly, to my mind, they say, “The Commons Public Accounts Committee has revealed that patients could suffer damage to their heart and lungs if access to treatment is delayed.” Well I have two things to say on that point. Firstly it’s not exactly a ‘revelation’ by the Commons Public Accounts Committee, but that’s more of a personal gripe about writing style than anything. More fundamentally there appears to be no recognition that patients could suffer permanent joint damage and a drastic reduction of quality of life if access to treatment is delayed. It’s as though ‘heart’ is the magic buzzword – if you put ‘heart’ in your article, at least when it comes to GPs who are forced to be target driven and probably have a big government target about reducing heart disease right now, then people might take action!
Mind you, they say that the average number of visits to a GP is four, before a patient is referred on to a specialist, and blame this on a lack of GP training. I would have thought that wasn’t soooo bad. It is hard to diagnose. It does vary enormously between patients. And it is possible to show symptoms that appear to be RA and then disappear – it happened to a good friend of mine. So I would have thought that an average of three visits (maybe not four) and attempts at less drastic treatment like ‘take Neurofen’ would not be unreasonable. I was very lucky – I had two visits before my referral and the GP spotted immediately that it might be RA and organised a blood test on the first visit. However if I’d been seronegative (negative RF test) then I shudder to think how long it might have taken!
Apparently, according to the same article on the same Commons report, “GPs receive on average only two hours of teaching on musculoskeletal conditions during their training, including minimal coverage of inflammatory arthritis.” I have to say I find that hard to believe, but if it’s true then it’s pretty scary, and it might explain why it’s taking 6-9 months to get people referred.
They also say that there’s a lack of awareness among the public of what symptoms to look for. I’m sure that’s true, and that does stop people going to pester their doctor when they have intermittent pain, but I suspect another thing that stops people going to see their GP is the difficulty in getting an appointment in the first place! But that’s another story for another post on another day …
Tags: arthritis, diagnosis, occupational therapist, OT, pain, R.A., RA, rhematoid arthritis, rheumatoid, Rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Is it me, or do others with rheumatoid arthritis see RA possibilities everywhere? I’ve told my bro, who has had neck pain for years and gets inflamed knuckles, that he really should get an RA test, even though it’s incredibly unlikely in a lad his age. (Unlikely but not impossible, as Rhuematoid Arthritis Guy can testify, and not an unreasonable suggestion given that he’s my brother and we do have family with RA.
However, it starts to get a bit silly when you’re sitting chatting to someone and start thinking ‘ooh, they get stiff in the mornings; could be RA.’ Well yeah, I have to remind myself, but when they say stiff they probably mean their muscles ache a bit because they went jogging last night, not that they can’t move their joints. But then again, RA is notoriously hard to diagnose, so when you’re sitting in the OT’s room chatting to another patient who is being treated for ‘carpel tunnel syndrome’ in both wrists, has been referred to the podiatrist because of pain in both feet, finds it hard to grip the steering wheel for any length of time, gets ‘dead arms’ in the middle of the night just like I do and finds it difficult to be a passenger even in the car for long journeys because when she gets out she’s ‘stiff all over’ … oh yes, and this all started with ‘the change’ … you can’t help wondering, can you? Or can you? Is it just me?
It’s hard to keep your mouth shut sometimes, but I managed it. For all I know she’s been thoroughly tested for it and hasn’t got it, but I couldn’t ask; I’d never even met her before that day. It makes me wonder even more because when I was diagnosed with RA I’d gone to the doctor saying, ‘Help – I think I’ve got carpel tunnel syndrome!’
I suppose I shall never know, and I really hope I’m barking up the wrong tree altogether, for her sake … but I can’t help wondering. Am I being silly?
Tags: Ask the Doctor, aspirin, chemist, Daily Mail, diagnosis, doctor, Dr Martin Scurr, GP, health funding, Martin Scurr, minor illness, over the counter, pharmacy, public health
As usual, there’s something I’ve been trying and failing to put into words for ages, only to find that someone has done it very elegantly for me already! I’m going to copy it to our local practice manager (who is also a friend.)
I am not a fan of the Daily Mail, but I stumbled across an ‘Ask The Doctor’ article in their online paper because it was about R.A. Tagged onto the bottom of the article is this, which I’m going to quote in full, because it says everything I’ve been wanting to say for ages about continuity of care etc. (I’m not sure about the copyright implications here but I’m giving full reference to the original article by Dr Martin Scurr in the Mail Online (Wed Jan 6th), so hopefully it’s OK!
By the way… There was recently a conference organised by the manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines. Many of the great and the good attended – shadow health minister Mark Simmonds, and some of the leading lights from the Royal College of GPs.
The theme of the meeting was to change the way the public thinks about minor illness. There is a push to dissuade patients from consulting their doctors for what might seem to be small ailments, and to encourage self-diagnosis and treatment. It’s all about saving money.
But the involvement of the hallowed seniors of my profession – in what looks rather like a sales drive for those peddling over-the-counter medicines – has set me thinking.
In medicine, no complaint is defined as minor until it has been thought about, in context, with informed judgment. I was always taught that general practice is about the ongoing observation of someone’s health over a lifetime. A lot of apparently disconnected elements might add up to quite a lot.
Yes, I believe in personal responsibility for health – doctors are only guides on a rocky path. But now the leaders in our profession seem to be saying it’s time for patients to look after themselves – implying that doctors have created a culture of dependency. It’s just not so. The problem with academics and medical politicos is that most of them occupy those lofty positions because they opted out of full-time work at the coal face.
How many patients with acid reflux have Barrett’s oesophagus, which can lead to cancer? How many with indigestion have got helicobacter infection, which can lead to stomach cancer? And yet they are expected to go to the chemist. We are supposed to be entering a new decade, not heading back to the last century. We must retain our devotion to patients as guides on that rocky path.
I actually disagree about it being driven by the over-the-counter drug companies. I think it’s driven by the fact that there aren’t enough GPs to see the patients. Our practice has something like eight GPs for 20,000 registered patients, and although there are some patients registered that they never see (because they’re healthy) we have a high elderly population here and the practice is very over-stretched, but there’s no more funding available; so the government thinks the answer is to send us all into the chemist for an aspirin.
Tags: arthritis, diagnosis, doctor, GP, RA, Rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthrtis helpline, steroid, steroid injection
I’ve had a frustrating morning – can hardly lift my left leg at the moment and both knees very painful, and so I phoned the rheumatology helpline at the hospital and explained the problem. My nurse actually answered the phone. Oh good, I thought. She didn’t remember me … but I can’t blame her for that as we’ve only met once. It’s still good because if someone else answers they say ‘Oh you need to speak to Jean and she’s in clinic…’ , so at least I jumped that hoop.
Told her the problem. ‘What do we normally do about your knees, Penguin?’ she says. Well that’s helpful.
‘Well since I only got a diagnosis in April and this hasn’t happened before, not a clue!’
‘Oh, well if it’s specific joints we usually inject them with steroids’ …lovely, ‘and local anesthetic’. Presumably to numb the pain from having the injection, rather than the pain I’ve already got. Oh joy!
Hmm, in my naivety I’d been anticipating more of a tea and sympathy approach followed by something like ‘try a support bandage’ or ‘have a hot bath’ … guess I have a lot to learn about RA!
The nurse continued, ‘But you need to see your GP first to confirm it’s to do with the arthritis. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t.’
‘I’d be bloody surprised if it wasn’t … what else is it going to be?!’
‘Well quite, but as I can’t see them we do need to get someone to have a look …’
Thinks – I can look, I have a brain too, and guess what, my knees are all swollen and I can lift the left one. But no, that’s not good enough.
‘Well it won’t be today, because if you don’t get in at 8.30am they won’t see you on the day,’ I says.
Oh well she says, full of NHS optimism, ‘Phone and see if they have a cancellation.’
They did – tomorrow. So I’ve taken that.
I suppose I can be glad about the fact I don’t have to queue up at 8.30 tomorrow morning to get an appointment, only to have to come back at 9.30 to have the appointment, considering how ‘interesting’ standing in line is at the moment – almost as much fun as going up stairs.
I didn’t dare ask how many weeks it would be before I got into the day unit even if the GP did confirm it – or how many weeks it would be for the GP to even write a referral letter.
Maybe I just need to burst in to tears at the GP tomorrow to get something done. Shouldn’t be hard the way I’m feeling.