Welwyn woman gets new lease of life thanks to an award-winning NHS service

PUBLISHED: 16:00 01 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:07 03 April 2018

Fidelma Gordon with a patient. Picture: NHS East & North Herts Trust

Fidelma Gordon with a patient. Picture: NHS East & North Herts Trust

NHS East & North Herts Trust

A Welwyn woman has words of advice to anyone suffering joint pain on how to get the best out of the NHS.

Carol Masters with partner Terry Mitchinson. Picture: supplied by NHS East & North Herts TrustCarol Masters with partner Terry Mitchinson. Picture: supplied by NHS East & North Herts Trust

A Welwyn woman has words of advice to anyone suffering joint pain on how to get the best out of the NHS.

Carol Masters’ life has changed thanks to improvements in the East and North Herts NHS Trust’s rheumatoid arthritis healthcare.

In 2010, Carol began to experience joint and bodily pain so bad that by 2012 it prevented her from leaving the house.

Just walking up the stairs became a battle.

Fidelma Gordon with a patient. Picture: NHS East & North Herts TrustFidelma Gordon with a patient. Picture: NHS East & North Herts Trust

Carol, who enjoyed being an active person, said: “Looking back, things had become really bad.

“They were dark times as it just felt my life as I had known it was over.”

Early tests had not revealed that she had rheumatoid arthritis, but when she was referred to the consultant rheumatologist at the old QEII hospital by her GP, everything slotted into place.

“Just one look at my swollen knees made my consultant suspect strongly that I had rheumatoid arthritis,” said Carole, 67.

Carol Masters with partner Terry Mitchinson. Picture: supplied by NHS East & North Herts TrustCarol Masters with partner Terry Mitchinson. Picture: supplied by NHS East & North Herts Trust

Responding to rising demand on the Trust’s rheumatology outpatient services, the award-winning annual review service supports patients with stable inflammatory arthritis.

The aim of this nurse-led service has been to ensure that patients are reviewed regularly, with risk assessments for cardiovascular disease and bone health also undertaken.

A few years on, Carol’s life has been transformed by her treatment.

“Over time, my symptoms got back under control and we were able to resume a more normal life again,” she said.

Carol and her partner Terry Mitchinson - who was previously the editor of the Welwyn Hatfield Times - can now enjoy their holidays with plenty of walking.

She said: “It was nothing like a previous trip to Lindos in Greece a few years earlier, where even walking just short distances left me in tears because of the pain.”

The Trust’s rheumatology nurse practitioner, Fidelma Gordon, said that the improvements to Carol’s wellbeing were due to the extra time that the annual review clinics allow.

She said: “As well as freeing up time for our consultants to review more complex patients, they have helped improve the quality of care provided to our patients through these regular follow-up reviews.

“The patients involved have more time to discuss their general health needs, which can include the early detection of complications such as osteoporosis and reductions in people’s medication where that is warranted.

“The success of these annual review clinics has seen them become a cornerstone of the Trust’s outpatient service for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”

Carol said: “I now have the confidence to self-manage my condition.

“I see my consultant every 12 months, but also each year I have an annual review with a clinical nurse specialist,” she said, adding that she uses a dedicated helpline for queries in between the appointments.

“It’s my back-up, which saves time and my health!”

When asked what message she wanted to give to others, Carol was clear:

“If you start to feel bad joint pain that is affecting different parts of the body and deteriorates relatively quickly, it could be more than just the usual aches and pains of getting old.

“Speak with your GP and be persistent if you need to in being referred to a specialist.

“Taking early action could help transform your life.”


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