We have been working with NICE since 2016 to help improve the quality of care for axial Spondyloarthitis. In February 2017 NICE published the first ever clinical guideline for diagnosing and managing the condition. We promoted the Guideline to healthcare professionals and people living with AS.
We then campaigned NICE for a Quality Standard. A Quality Standard sets out the priority areas for quality improvement in health and social care. They cover areas where there is variation in care. Each standard gives:
- A set of statements to help improve quality
- Information on how to measure progress.
The NICE Quality Standard for Spondyloarthritis covers four areas
- Adults with suspected axial or peripheral spondyloarthritis are referred to a rheumatologist.
- Adults with suspected axial spondyloarthritis and an X-ray that does not show sacroiliitis have an MRI using an inflammatory back pain protocol.
- Adults with axial spondyloarthritis are referred to a specialist physiotherapist for a structured exercise programme.
- Adults with spondyloarthritis are given information about their condition, which healthcare professionals will be involved with their care, and how and when to get in touch with them.
These standards now need to be considered by healthcare commissioners and providers. If implemented effectively, they could help reduce the current 8.5 year delay to diagnosis, ensure people see a physiotherapist and make sure people diagnosed with AS get the help and support they need.
We welcome this new Quality Standard. It sets expectations of care quality which must be implemented across the country effectively and without delay to ensure that patients receive the best possible care and outcomes. We will be working hard to ensure that commissioners are taking full note of the guidance and give axial SpA the attention it deserves.
Dr Dale Webb NASS Chief Executive