specialised rheumatology services (all ages)

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Dear Colleagues
As part of the work we are doing with the National Commissioning Board we have been asked to
identify units around Engalnd who provide an informal service where rheumatologists refer to
other rheumatologists because of their recognised expertise in an area. We are hoping to bolster
many of these services by recognition and support from the National Commissioning Board, and
the development of clinical networks with specailist centres acting as hubs, and other centres as
spokes. Much of the detail has yet to be negotiated. I would be grateful if you would check the
provisional list at the end off the attached document for any services we have missed out in
terms of adult rheumatology, either for rare genetic disorders, or for rare or severe manifestations
of autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Would you please check this list for any centres we have
missed out. I need this information by the 12th of October. I will be happy to take any questions
on this at Council next week.
2nd Mailing
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Description of Service
Rheumatology is a multidisciplinary branch of medicine that deals with the investigation, diagnosis
and management of patients with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. This incorporates
over 200 disorders affecting joints, bones, muscles and soft tissues, including inflammatory arthritis
and other systemic autoimmune disorders, vasculitis, soft tissue conditions, spinal pain and metabolic
bone disease. A significant number of musculoskeletal conditions also affect other organ systems. In
recent years it has been noted that chronic inflammatory conditions associate with increased
cardiovascular morbidity mortality. Rheumatological conditions affect all age groups. Colleagues in
paediatric rheumatology have worked separately on a scope that will include transitional care
(adolescents moving from paediatric to adult services). Their conclusions are endorsed by the
Specialised Rheumatology Services Group, and are not repeated here.
The vast majority of rheumatology services will be commissioned through Clinical Commissioning
Groups. However, there are three specialized areas of Rheumatology Practice that this scope defines
where commissioning of specialist services directly through the National Commissioning Board offers
an opportunity for 1. enhanced efficiency and effectiveness 2. High-quality patient experience and
improved outcomes 3. The development of internationally competitive world-class centres of
excellence in specialized clinical practice and research. These three specialised areas of specialised
rheumatology are:
1. Paediatric and transitional care rheumatology
2. Inherited disorders of connective tissue
3. Autoimmune rheumatic disease and vasculitis.
Existing models of specialized commissioning within these areas include the complex Ehlers-Danlos
Syndrome (EDS) service and the Behcet’s syndrome Centres of Excellence (1).
There are currently a number of nationally recognised centres of excellence in rheumatology that
have informally operated as tertiary referral centres. These currently operate on an ad hoc and underresourced basis and National Commissioning will support the development of formal service
specifications and policies that guide referrals to these centres (e.g. see the Behçet’s syndrome
documentation (1). See also the attached document on “Improving NHS services for rare autoimmune
disorders”, a review by an independent expert clinical group on rare autoimmune disorders that
proposes the development of clinical networks, giving a useful vision of the nature of the specialist
hub (2)). There are no diagnostic or coded procedures that are specific to specialised care for
autoimmune disease and vasculitis. There are national specialist society guidelines and international
guidelines on the management of most rheumatological conditions, but they do not help to
differentiate between routine and specialist care. Most rheumatology activity (including specialised
rheumatology) is conducted in out-patients, so that day case or in-patient activities do not help to
differentiate between routine and specialised care. There are NICE technology appraisals on a variety
of conventional and biological drugs used in common conditions in rheumatology, such as rheumatoid
arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, and Centres of Excellence will facilitate the
optimal use of these and other novel therapies in the diseases that they specialise in. The reasons for
referral from a general to a specialist rheumatologist might be around diagnosis, which is often not
straight forward, and management particularly of rare and / or severe manifestations that have failed
to respond to conventional approaches
Specialised centres are characterised by (1,2):
recognised experts in their field, who regularly receive referrals from other rheumatology
consultant colleagues, and treat high volumes of patients with rare or severe disorders,
ensuring a sufficient level of specialism to deliver the best outcomes.
multidisciplinary teams who can ensure that the patient’s care is not limited by the expertise
available to them (consisting of specialised consultant rheumatologist, specialist nurse,
rehabilitation therapist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, dentist / orthodontist,
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pharmacist, dietician, ophthalmologist, clinical psychologist / psychiatrist, podiatrist and
having protocols in place for rapid access for new and existing patients with structured referral
developed shared care guidelines and arrangements with referring services, ensuring support
is delivered as close to the patients’ home as possible, but access to specialist expertise is
taking steps to audit their outcomes and share these data with colleagues in other centres,
enabling the spread of good practice and appropriate benchmarking of quality, with robust
clinical governance processes
facilitating participation in clinical trials and research
training and continuing professional development to support and up-skill local non specialist
patient involvement in the development and evaluation of networks and access to information
to facilitate informed decisions and partnership in decision making
Although musculoskeletal disease services focus, naturally, on disease affecting joints, muscles and
bones, many forms of 'arthritis' involve many organs and systems. Thus the specialist rheumatology
teams also work closely with other specialties (often involving joint clinics) including:
· orthopaedics (including liaison with the skeletal dysplasia network and metabolic bone
disease specialists)
· nephrology (including access to renal biopsy services)
· dermatology
· ophthalmology (for uveitis and other inflammatory eye diseases)
· cardiology (including assessment of pulmonary hypertension. There are 7 nationally
commissioned centres. 30% of pulmonary hypertension is associated with autoimmune
rheumatic disease)
· respiratory medicine (including comprehensive lung function testing)
· ear, nose and throat (for assessment of upper airways for granulomatous and other
inflammatory disease)
· dentistry (for xerostomia and ulceration)
· psychology / psychiatry.
· gastroenterology
They also have access to a panoply of tests to assist diagnosis and prognosis, including radiology (xrays, ultrasound, CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans, radioisotope scans, angiography, and other
specialised procedures), appropriate biopsies and specialised pathology services, and genetic
diagnostic services.
Specialised rheumatology services come under the three main headings listed above:
1. Paediatric and transitional care rheumatology
Note: Our colleagues in paediatric rheumatology have worked separately on a scope that will include
transitional care (adolescents moving from paediatric to adult services). Their conclusions are
endorsed by our group. We do not feel strongly whether paediatric rheumatology is included in our
“All ages” group, or under Paediatric Medicine. We feel that Paediatric Rheumatology lends itself very
favourably to funding from the NCB, ticking all the appropriate boxes. Transitional care is a much
neglected area of the interface between paediatric and adult rheumatology, and if we have separate
adult and paediatric scopes we feel that transitional rheumatology needs to be reflected in both.
2. Inherited disorders of connective tissue
These very rare disorders, often developing in children or young adults, are not seen sufficiently
commonly by individual hospital units for local expertise to develop. They require multidisciplinary
input including genetics and the establishment of centres in England that would provide a more
focused, rational delivery of co-ordinated clinical care for long-term follow-up of these chronic
disorders. These diseases include Ehlers Danlos (excluding type III) which is already nationally
commissioned, Marfans syndrome, skeletal and other dysplasias, osteogenesis imperfecta,
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dysostoses, fibrous dysplasia, osteopetroses, and osteosclerosis. These conditions will link with other
Group 3 services including;
Assessment and provision of equipment for people with complex physical disability (all ages)
Specialised rehabilitation services for both brain injury and complex disability (adults)
Specialised paediatric orthopaedic surgery services
Specialised orthopaedic services (adults)
However, because they are often inherited diseases and can affect any connective tissue, interactions
with genetic services, cardiology and ophthalmology will also be undertaken as appropriate.
3. Autoimmune rheumatic disease and vasculitis
Autoimmune rheumatic diseases and vasculitis cover a spectrum of disease severity ranging from
mild and self-limiting disease to severe, handicapping, or life-threatening manifestations. As detailed
above, many of these patients will be looked after by general rheumatologists, either independently or
as part of a hub and spoke model with the specialist centres of excellence to drive high-quality care
and research into these rare conditions.
Our proposed method to identify and capture the specialised elements of these diseases and
conditions is by using consultant to consultant referrals where:
1. The referring and receiving consultants are both Rheumatologists
2. The receiving hospital is on the list below, and
3. The referring and receiving hospitals are different
The diseases are:
Autoimmune rheumatic disorders
 Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
 Antiphospholipid syndrome (APL)
 Systemic sclerosis
 Sjogrens syndrome
 Inflammatory muscle disease (myositis)
 Overlap syndromes
 Relapsing polychondritis
 Myositis/ inflammatory muscle disease
Vasculitides, including:
 Giant cell arteritis (and polymyalgia rheumatica)
 Rheumatoid vasculitis
 Wegener’s granulomatosis
 Polyarteritis nodosa and micropolyarteritis
 Churg Strauss vasculitis
 Behcet’s disease (already accepted for specialist commissioning)
 Takayasu’s arteritis
 Henoch Schonlein purpura
 Cryoglobulinaemia
Other rare inflammatory disorders
 Eosinophilic fasciitis
 Familial Mediterranean fever and other periodic syndromes
 Relapsing polychondritis
Identifying activity for autoimmune rheumatic diseases and vasculitis
 Specialist Activity in recognised centres would be identified as follows:
Within the Specialist centre:
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Audits of all referrals from other consultant rheumatologists (diagnosis, reason for
In patient / outpatient / day case - all activity involving specialist MDT
Interventions performed by the team that could identify specialist activity, e.g. use of
unlicensed or novel therapies, intravenous immunoglobulin, plasma exchange
Recruitment to condition-specific clinical and research databases
A Preliminary list of specialist centres for autoimmune rheumatic diseases and vasculitis
London UCLH (SLE & APS, myositis, Sjogren’s, vasculitis)
London RFH (scleroderma)
London Barts & RLH (Sjogren’s, Behcet’s)
London UMDS Kings (myositis)
London Guys & St Thomas’s (SLE & APS, Sjogren’s)
London Kings College Hospital (myositis)
Oxford (vasculitis, myositis)
Cambridge (vasculitis & Sjogren’s)
Bath & Bristol (scleroderma, SLE & APS)
Southampton (SLE & APS)
Birmingham (SLE & APS, Sjogren’s, vasculitis, Behcets, myositis)
Leeds (SLE & APS, Sjogren’s, vasculitis, scleroderma, Behcets)
Liverpool (Behcets, SLE & APS, Sjogren’s)
Sheffield (Sjogren’s, SLE & APS)
Manchester (scleroderma, SLE & APS, myositis)
Newcastle (Sjogren’s, SLE & APS)
Nottingham/Derby/Mansfield (SLE & APS, Sjogren’s, vasculitis)
Ipswich & Norwich (vasculitis)
Swindon (Sjogren’s)
London Imperial (Behcet’s, vasculitis, SLE & APS)
Southend (vasculitis, Sjogren’s)
Blackburn (SLE & APS)
These conditions have well established patient support groups actively championing greater
awareness and research into these conditions:
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Provisional costings:
This would need to be formally costed but based on the assumption of an additional 1-2 consultant
posts/centre, clinical nurse and administrative support = circa £350K/centre/year = £7 million/year =
£35 million/5 years
1. Behçet’s syndrome society. National commissioning and designation for Behçet’s syndrome
centres of excellence. 2012
2. Improving NHS services for rare autoimmune diseases. A review by the independent expert clinical
group on rare autoimmune diseases. October 2011.