National clinical audit for rheumatoid & early inflammatory arthritis – annual report 2015

Reports | Published: 22 Jan 2016

The first national clinical audit for rheumatoid and early inflammatory arthritis looks in detail at what happens to patients over 16 years of age in England and Wales with suspected rheumatoid or other types of early inflammatory arthritis within the crucial first 3 months of referral to a specialist.

All organisations (both public and private) which provide NHS rheumatology services in England and Wales were eligible to take part in this audit. Organisations are required to report their participation in their Quality Accounts. Northern Ireland and Scotland were invited to participate but chose not to at this stage. This report includes data from 1 February 2014 to 30 April 2015.

The report identifies that although most services offer prompt educational support and agree targets for treatment with their patients, only one-quarter of services achieve the agreed targets within 3 months of follow-up.

Key findings include:

  • 1 in 6 patients were referred by their GP to rheumatology services within 3 days, (NICE Quality Standard 1); one-quarter of patients, however, waited more than 3 months to be referred
  • 1 in 4 patients were seen by rheumatology services within 3 weeks of referral  (NICE Quality Standard 2)
  • More than half of patients were treated with disease modifying drugs within 6 weeks, irrespective of whether they were seen within 3 weeks of referral (NICE Quality Standard 3).

Download the full report below.

Download the patient and public guide here.


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National clinical audit for rheumatoid & early inflammatory arthritis – annual report 2015