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Young arthritis patients targeted in new study


Patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) who attend the Freeman and North Tyneside Hospitals in Newcastle, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, and Wansbeck Hospital in Ashington will be asked to participate in the study.

AS is a type of inflammatory arthritis mainly affecting younger men, which tends to start in the late teens and early twenties and predominantly affects the spine and may lead to severe pain and stiffness in the back.

The two-year study will be carried out by specialist registrar at the Freeman Hospital, Dr Ben Thompson, and funded by almost £110,000 from the Arthritis Research Campaign (arc). Dr Thompson, who works at the AS clinic at the Freeman, and whose academic base is in Newcastle University’s Musculoskeletal Research Group, said the idea for the study had come from his patients. 'Although there are a few resources out there for patients, including arc’s own AS booklet, we don’t know how they use the information or which patients access it,”'he said. 'There is a lot of information for people with chronic arthritic conditions and about arthritis in general, but AS patients are slightly different; many are younger men and we don’t know if the resources that are available really meet their needs.

'Young men can find it difficult to acknowledge and cope with physical disability, and engage with medical care. Any educational interventions should take this into account and be tailored to this group. We think there might be a gap in provision and that perhaps more interactive resources might be more appropriate.'

As well as interviewing patients attending North East hospitals, Dr Thompson and colleagues from the Department of Rheumatology and the Newcastle University’s Institute of Health and Society will hold focus groups with patients from the Tyne and Wear National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society.

The views of rheumatologists and allied health professionals such as specialist nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists will also be sought.

Dr Thompson hopes to come up with recommendations about new educational packages for AS patients and how to deliver them more effectively.

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