Rheumatology Changemaker Award

14 February 2024

A rheumatology consultant has received a prestigious award for speeding up the diagnosis of patients living with debilitating axial spondylarthritis, a chronic arthritis that affects the joints of the spine.

Dr. Dhivya Das, the distinguished rheumatology consultant at Rochdale Infirmary, received the Silver NASS Act on Axial SpA Changemaker Award which recognises her outstanding contributions to reducing the delay to diagnosis in axial spondylarthritis (SpA) through education, data collection, and pathway development.

This prestigious award was presented to her at the House of Commons, which she described as a “humbling and proud moment”. She celebrated her award alongside Tony Lloyd (former Rochdale MP).

She added that she “couldn’t have won this award without her colleagues, Chad Critchley, advanced rheumatology practitioner, and Katie Stables, specialised rheumatology physiotherapist.”

The team worked with GPs, advanced clinical practitioners and medical students through teaching sessions aimed at helping them to recognise the symptoms of axial SpA. This resulted in an increase in referrals of patients with the condition.

The inspiration behind the teams’ efforts lies in the average time length of diagnosis for axial SpA being eight and a half years, and the main delay occurring in referrals to rheumatology services. Recognising the disproportionate impact on young individuals, they emphasised the crucial importance of early treatment for more effective management of the condition.

The achievement stems from the NASS Aspiring to Excellence Programme which the team were successful in applying to. The programme provided them with coaching, education and the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other teams across the country. This opened up different opportunities including the Britspa Travelling Fellowship. Through this, they were invited to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading with Dr Antoni Chan who is a leading rheumatology consultant in SpA.

The team emphasises the importance of initiating change by engaging with those who refer into the service and fostering links to break down barriers between primary and secondary care. This is a commitment they are continuing to pursue.

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