Welcome to 2021. Like me, I’m sure many of you are thankful to see the end of 2020 and hopeful for the year to come.
Personally, I continue to be grateful for our incredibly committed community and feel energised to work even harder in 2021, to ensure that NASS is there for everyone affected by axial Spondyloarthritis.
Despite the challenges of last year, I am really proud of the things we achieved and look forward to doing even more to help people live well with axial SpA (AS) in 2021.
As we wake up to a New Year, a year where we celebrate the 45th anniversary of NASS, I would like to share some highlights with you and look forward to 2021.
Helping people stay connected
2020 reminded us just how important it is to stay connected to each other and find different ways to stay well. Our Facebook Live sessions provided a way to do just that. With topics ranging from managing hip pain to Christmas baking, our contributors gently guided us and answered our questions. In total, more than 80,000 people have watched the videos of these sessions.
We know just how much people valued the opportunity to be together this year, even online. We were grateful to NASS members who ran sessions on topics such as Mindfulness, yoga, Pilates and somatic.
Our Facebook live sessions were so popular that we are going to continue them into 2021. We are already looking forward to sessions in January on anxiety (13th), pain management (20th) and Tai Chi (27th). Our February sessions will explore flares (3rd), coaching (11th) and apps for health (24th).
We can’t run these sessions alone, so if anyone has expertise that they would like to share, please do get in touch.
In 2020 we were also pleased to see NASS branches embracing Zoom and Skype. These innovative sessions enabled local members to provide virtual physiotherapy, and I know how committed they are to continuing that critical support. Thank you!
Empowering people to live well
Last year, we were excited to launch My AS, My Life, a comprehensive collection of videos and guides that help people live well with axial SpA (AS).
This year we will take our self-management support to the next level in a new collaboration with rheumatology services and our volunteer-led branches. Our first step will be to pilot ways to deliver the support that people really want and use the results to plan a more extensive programme later in the year.
Reducing time to diagnosis
As many of you know, in 2020, we launched a ground-breaking programme to reduce the time to diagnosis of axial SpA (AS) from 8.5 years to just one year.
I’m really looking forward to the 25th May 2021, when we will launch the final version of our proposed Gold Standard Time to Diagnosis national implementation plan.
NASS is the first organisation in the world to propose a Gold Standard time of one year for the diagnosis of axial SpA (AS). We will be inviting hundreds of organisations across the UK to sign up to the Gold Standard and commit themselves to achieving it locally.
To support our goals, we will launch a national awareness campaign and publish a new web-based resource to help people who think they might have axial SpA, as well as clinicians and NHS commissioners. We will also launch a primary care clinical champions programme to give axial SpA (AS) the visibility in primary care that it desperately needs.
Raising awareness in parliament
The work of our All Party Parliamentary Group on axial SpA continues.
One highlight for me in 2020 was our new Parliamentary Chair, Tom Randall MP, leading the first ever Parliamentary debate on delayed diagnosis (and only the second ever Parliamentary debate on the condition). The APPG also at the impact of Covid-19 on rheumatology services and went on to publish a set of Minimum Service Standards.
Last year the APPG also looked at the key question of hydrotherapy services. We will be following up in 2021 with Parliamentary Questions to ask the Minister how to protect and restore those services.
Our work to improve services for people living with axial SpA (AS) will expand in 2021. Our Aspiring to Excellence programme – which supports rheumatology services that are committed to providing the best care – will double in size. We will also share the learnings from the first cohort of participating hospitals.
When we launched Aspiring to Excellence in Parliament in 2018, we said we wanted Every Patient, Every Time to have early diagnosis, and the best treatment and care, and we will be relentless in our pursuit of that goal.
We can’t do this alone
With the Covid-19 vaccine programme rolling out, we are already looking forward to a brighter year ahead.
Finally, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone continues to support NASS throughout the year and enabled us, in different ways, to continue our work and expand it to meet the unprecedented support needs of people living with axial SpA (AS). We are blessed to have such steadfast friends.
Happy New Year,
Dr. Dale Webb, FRSA, FRSPH