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Seeking improvements

Case study: Measuring the impact of key policy developments in rheumatoid arthritis via surveys, case studies and examples of good practice

Published: 30 Nov 2011

Seeking improvements

Two surveys were conducted to assess how policy developments had changed RA services.

Client: National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society

Agency: Helen Johnson Consulting Ltd

Campaign: One Year On

Timescale: February 2010 to December 2010

A quick look

HJCL was commissioned by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) to review several key policy developments in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in 2009 and bring the findings together in a report that would be launched at a parliamentary reception for MPs and stakeholders. The project included designing and conducting a survey to evaluate the impact of these policy initiatives – one year on – on service quality and patient care. A survey of clinicians and patients, case studies, examples of good practice and key recommendations were all incorporated in the report, which was promoted through a political communications and stakeholder engagement strategy.


In policy terms, 2009 was a significant year for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) living in the UK. The Department of Health's 18-week Commissioning Pathway for Inflammatory Arthritis documented for the first time the services and care that people with RA could expect to receive on their journey from GP to specialist. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) clinical guideline 79 enshrined the need for a consistent approach to RA services across England and Wales and introduced standards and implementation priorities for supporting and treating patients with RA. Reports from The King's Fund and National Audit Office (NAO) pointed to serious shortcomings in service provision in NHS England and concluded that, although much work was taking place to improve patients' lives, there was still much to be done. It was against this backdrop that NRAS called on HJCL to highlight the positive and negative impacts of the Government initiatives introduced in 2009, and provide recommendations to key policy influencers on how to improve service quality and patient care.


2010 provided the opportunity to take the policy developments of the 'Year of RA' in 2009 and review – one year on – what progress had been made to implement some of the key recommendations contained in the King's Fund and NAO reports. Against this backdrop, and that of the NICE clinical guideline and the 18-week commissioning pathway, 2010 had the potential to be a crucial year in improving rheumatology services within the UK. NRAS commissioned HJCL to design and conduct two surveys, one for NRAS patient members and one for consultant rheumatologists. HJCL designed the surveys to find out how the policy developments in 2009 had changed the way in which services for people with RA were being commissioned or provided and their impact on patient care. The findings of a total of 156 completed surveys were analysed to produce four key recommendations and case studies in the report 'The Year of RA: One Year On'.


As well as authoring the report, HJCL developed and executed a political communications strategy, which comprised a parliamentary event for 60 people, including MPs, clinicians and patients. The report was then sent on to all NRAS members. Following the parliamentary event, an Early Day Motion signed by 29 MPs and several follow-up Parliamentary questions were tabled.

Client verdict

"Thank you very much indeed for all your efforts for a well organised and executed event in spite of the challenges and me having to rush off early. Excellent feedback has been given all round so well done."

Ailsa Bosworth, NRAS Chief Executive

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