Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Patient initiated outpatient follow up in rheumatoid arthritis: Six year randomised controlled trial

Kirwan, John; Blair, Peter S.; Perry, Mark G.; Hewlett, Sarah; Pollock, Jon; Mitchell, Kathryn; Hehir, Maggie; Memel, David


John Kirwan

Peter S. Blair

Mark G. Perry

Jon Pollock
Associate Professor in Epidemiology

Kathryn Mitchell

Maggie Hehir

David Memel


Objectives: To determine whether direct access to hospital review initiated by patients with rheumatoid arthritis would result in improved clinical and psychological outcome, reduced overall use of healthcare resources, and greater satisfaction with care than seen in patients receiving regular review initiated by a rheumatologist. Design: Two year randomised controlled trial extended to six years. Setting: Rheumatology outpatient department in teaching hospital. Participants: 209 consecutive patients with rheumatoid arthritis for over two years; 68 (65%) in the direct access group and 52 (50%) in the control group completed the study (P = 0.04). Main outcome measures: Clinical outcome: pain, disease activity, early morning stiffness, inflammatory indices, disability, grip strength, range of movement in joints, and bone erosion. Psychological status: anxiety, depression, helplessness, self efficacy, satisfaction, and confidence in the system. Number of visits to hospital physician and general practitioner for arthritis. Results: Participants were well matched at baseline. After six years there was only one significant difference between the two groups for the 14 clinical outcomes measured (deterioration in range of movement in elbow was less in direct access patients). There were no significant differences between groups for median change in psychological status. Satisfaction and confidence in the system were significantly higher in the direct access group at two, four, and six years: confidence 9.8 v 8.4, 9.4 v 8, 8.7 v 6.9; satisfaction 9.3 v 8.3, 9.3 v 7.7, 8.9 v 7.1 (all P < 0.02). Patients in the direct access group had 38% fewer hospital appointments (median 8 v 13, P < 0.0001). Conclusions: Over six years, patients with rheumatoid arthritis who initiated their reviews through direct access were clinically and psychologically at least as well as patients having traditional reviews initiated by a physician. They requested fewer appointments, found direct access more acceptable, and had more than a third fewer medical appointments. This radical responsive management could be tested in other chronic diseases.


Perry, M. G., Blair, P. S., Kirwan, J., Hewlett, S., Pollock, J., Mitchell, K., …Memel, D. (2005). Patient initiated outpatient follow up in rheumatoid arthritis: Six year randomised controlled trial. BMJ, 330(7484), 171-175.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 22, 2005
Deposit Date Jan 22, 2010
Journal British Medical Journal
Print ISSN 0959-8138
Publisher BMJ Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 330
Issue 7484
Pages 171-175
Keywords rheumatoid arthritis, randomised controlled trial
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : Plenary presentations at the American College of Rheumatology and British Society of Rheumatology. Invited talks in Holland, Sweden, and Canada. Quoted as best practice by DH in 'Supporting people with long-term conditions to self-care' (2006). 8 NHS trusts/European Rheumatology groups have visited to explore setting up the service.