Arthritis Ireland welcomes publication of Model of Care for Rheumatology
Pictured at the launch of the Model of Care for Rheumatology were John O'Flynn, President, Arthritis Ireland; Stacey Grealis, volunteer, Mayo branch; Prof. David Kane, National Clinical Lead; Seoirse Smith, Chairman, Arthritis Ireland; Gráinne O'Leary, Chief Executive; Peter Boyd, trustee; and Prof. Conor O'Keane, Director of Quality and Clinical Care, RCPI. Pic: David Coleman
Arthritis Ireland has welcomed publication of the Model of Care for Rheumatology in Ireland, which it describes as a “significant step forward” for the one million people living with arthritis in this country.
The model of care was developed by the National Clinical Programme for Rheumatology, as part of the Clinical Strategy and Programmes Division of the HSE. Its aim is to facilitate a “right person, right place, first time approach” to patients with rheumatic and musculoskeletal disorders (RMDs).
Speaking at the launch in the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, Gráinne O’Leary, Chief Executive of Arthritis Ireland, said: “Up to now, we have lacked a coherent strategy for treating people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal disorders; there has been unequal access to services; we have growing waiting lists; and increasing numbers are living with arthritis.”
The model of care sets out a vision for rheumatology services, Ms O’Leary said, that is “patient-focused and puts patients at the centre of care”.
It sets out ambitious targets include reducing waiting lists for all rheumatology referrals to less than six months within one year and to less than three months within two years. It envisages fast tracking of early inflammatory arthritis and systemic disease in order to reduce waiting times for such urgent referrals to less than two weeks within one year.
The most recent figures reveal that there were 15,493 on the rheumatology waiting list in September, a 10 per cent increase since January 2017. The number of people waiting longer than 12 months increased by 41 per cent in that time period, from 3,760 to 5,318. Those waiting longer than 12 months account for one in three of the total waiting list.
“In order to make the model of care a reality, investment is needed in staffing and infrastructure, such that international best practice metrics are achieved. The improvements in care outlined will only be achieved if workforce planning reflects the future implementation and sustainability of the model of care,” Ms O’Leary stated.
Ireland has one of the lowest ratios of rheumatologists to population in the EU and when implemented, the model of care will bring service provision for RMDs in line with evidence-based practice and international standards of care.
One of the quality solutions identified in the programme is to enhance and develop self-management and patient education programmes. Self-management programmes promote independence, maintain or adjust life roles, and address the psychological impact of disease.
Arthritis Ireland has been delivering its self-management programme, Living Well with Arthritis, since 2006. Ms O’Leary noted that research by Arthritis Ireland and others shows that “self-management education can decrease emergency attendances and inpatient admissions leading to less demand for services. For patients with chronic arthritis, self-management has sustained health benefits, while reducing health care costs.”
The publication of the model of care is a milestone, Ms O’Leary concluded, “but its importance will only be fully realised in the context of its implementation”.