Janice Mooney, Andrew A Walker, Garry Barton, Alex J MacGregor, David GI Scott and Richard A Watts contributed equally to this work.
We have no conflicts of interest or competing interests to declare.
RAW, JM, AJM, DGIS and GB were responsible for the study conception and design. AA conducted all interviews. AA, JM and AW performed the data analysis. AA, JM and RAW drafted the manuscript. All authors commented on the draft manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Services for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) have evolved with the development of independently led outreach Rheumatology Practitioner (RP) clinics in Primary Care (PC). Their clinical and cost effectiveness, compared with Secondary Care (SC) services, has not been assessed. The RECIPROCATE study aims to evaluate their clinical and cost effectiveness. This part of the study aimed to explore health professionals’ opinions of rheumatology outreach service.
Using a qualitative design, semi-structured interviews were conducted with GPs, practice nurses, hospital doctors and RPs, from one hospital and seven PC practices in Norfolk, to elicit their opinions of the service. The interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.
All participants agreed the service was supportive and valuable providing high quality personalised care, disease management, social, and educational support. Advantages identified included convenience, continuity of care and proximity of services to home. RPs helped bridge the communication gap between PC and SC. Some participants suggested having a doctor alongside RPs. The service was considered to be cost effective for patients but there was uncertainty about cost effectiveness for service providers. Few disadvantages were identified the most recurring being the lack of other onsite services when needed. It was noted that more services could be provided by RPs such as prescribing and joint injections as well as playing a more active role in knowledge transfer to PC.
Professionals involved in the care of RA patients recognised the valuable role of the RP outreach clinics. This service can be further developed in rheumatology and the example can be replicated for other chronic conditions.