Awareness of AS among GPs and the general public in the UK is low. The key symptom of early AS is inflammatory back pain. However, mechanical and non-specific low back pain is very common and therefore inflammatory back pain, which is relatively rare, can get missed.
There is an average delay of 10 years from the onset of symptoms to receiving a diagnosis. This is often reflected in a similar delay in accessing appropriate treatment.
By this time spinal symptoms have often become chronic and disabling and irreversible spinal changes have begun.
The GP Awareness Campaign aims to address this problem by working with GPs to recognise the symptoms of inflammatory back pain and ensure appropriate pathways for treatment are in place.
Progress to date
- AS included as a 'hot topic' on the popular NB Medical update course for GPs, attended by over 10,000 GPs all around the UK in the Spring and Autumn 2012.
- Exhibition at stand at 15 NB Medical update courses for GPs, giving direct access to 5,000 GPs.
- Information poster at the annual conference of the Royal College of Opthamologists.
- Exhibition stand at the Primary Care Conference in Birmingham reaching attended by 6,000 primary care professionals, 23-24 May 2012.
- Exhibition stand at the Royal College of GPs conference in Glasgow attended by 1,600 GPs, 4-6 October 2012.
- Exhibition stand at the Primary Care Rheumatology Society conference in York, 15-17 November 2012.
- Speakers and exhibition stands at the annual conferences of both the British Chiropractic Association and the British Osteopathic Associtation in Sepbember and November 2012.
- An article in Frontline magazine on the debate on AS in the House of commons (see below) went to 50,000 physiotherapists on the 6 March 2013.
- An article in GP magazine on NASS's recommendations for best practice in the care of people with AS went to 34,500 GPs in March 2013.
- In the week between the 20 April and the 28 April 2013 NASS will have stands at NB Medical GP update conferences in Manchester, Edinburgh, London and Bristol - reaching a total of around 1,700 GPs.
The Back Pain Seminar
- In November 2012 NASS held a very successful Back Pain Seminar for 100 GPs, physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropracters in Birmingham. This seminar was sponsored by AbbVie and aimed to optimise the diagnosis and management of patients with back pain by teaching the delegates how to distinguish inflammatory back pain from mechanical back pain. Debbie Cook attended to talk about the role of NASS in supporting people with AS. The seminar was over subscribed and the feedback was excellent.
- At the end of November Dr Karl Gaffney ran this seminar at the Norwich Deanery for GP trainees. Debbie Cook attended to talk about the role of NASS in supporting people with AS and, once again, the feedback was excellent.
- On 7 March 2013 the Seminar was run again in Leicester, with sponsorship from AbbVie. This was attended by 150 GPs, physiotherapists and osteopaths. It was chaired by Dr Arumugan Moorthy, a consultant rheumatologist from Leicester General Hospital. Dr Karl Gaffney and Dr Raj Sengupta spoke and Debbie Cook also spoke on the role of NASS in supporting patients. NASS Leicester attended to run a stand.
- On the 27 February 2013 Dr Danny Murphy delivered training on AS to 40 GP trainees in the South West Penninsula. He used materials from our Back Pain Seminar and Debbie Cook attended to talk about the role of NASS.
- On the 23rd April there will be a launch of our Back Pain Seminar materials at the British Society of Rheumatology Conference in Birmingham, the UK's leading rheumatology conference. Meeting in a Box will provide rheumatologists with all the resources they need to deliver the Back Pain Seminar in their area and educate local GPs. It will include an interactive video, presentations and facilitator notes.
Parliament and MPs
- NASS held a reception in the House of Commons on 5 November 2012 called 'Flying the Flag'. We issued a call to action asking MPs and our supporters and members to write to the Secretary of State for Health to ask him what his department can do to address the delay in diagnosis for people with AS. As a result NASS received letters from both the Secretary of State for Health, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, and the Minister of State for Care and Support, Norman Lamb MP, stating that they are committed to improving health and social care outcomes for people with AS. The Department of Health also issued a statement on their website welcoming NASS' campaign and stating that the Government recognises the importance of early diagnosis and appropriate care and information for people with AS. You can read this on the Department of Health website.
- On Monday 25 February there was an Adjournment Debate on AS in the House of Commons, introduced by Huw Irranca-Davies, MP. Mr Irranca-Davies talked about his own experience of AS and introduced a 'Manifesto for AS' based on the recommendations of Looking Ahead. As a result of this debate the Minister for Care and Support, Norman Lamb MP, has agreed to a meeting with Mr Irranca-Davies and NASS. The debate attracted a lot of press attention and also an article in Frontline Magazine, which goes to 50,000 physiotherapists.
- On the 14 March the Minister for Care and Support, Norman Lamb MP, referred to the importance of early diagnosis for AS in a written answer to a question on disability due to musculoskeletal conditions.
- On 22 March following contact with NASS Caroline Lucas MP wrote to Norman Lamb to support Mr Irranca-Davies' manifesto on AS and to ask Norman Lamb to address these issues in his meeting with NASS.
- Exhibition stand at the British Society of Rheumatology Conference in Birmingham from the 23-25 April 2013.
- Exhibition stand at Physiotherapy UK annual conference from 11-12 October 2013.
- Exhibition stand at NB Medical update courses for GPs in spring 2013.
- Meeting with Norman Lamb MP, the Minister for Care and Support
- More Back Pain Seminars coming up across the UK