From rheumatology to primary care

Louise Preston discusses why her experience is so vital for her new first contact physiotherapy role

Louise Preston a Rheumatology Specialist Physiotherapist

Working as a rheumatology physiotherapist has been an absolute delight. The range of patients I get to see on a daily basis is quite amazing. The intricate pathology of so many of the conditions is what really draws you in and makes the role such a fascinating one. My speciality of course is axial spondyloarthritis (axial  SpA),  more commonly known – until recently – as ankylosing spondylitis. 

We all know how important physiotherapy is to this group of patients: exercise is the most important thing they can do to self-manage their condition, but they need the help and guidance of a specialist physiotherapist to make sure they are doing the right things. The best thing about being a rheumatology specialist physiotherapist is knowing that what you are doing will have an impact on every day of your patients’ lives.

Now, though, it is time for me to move on. Recent family commitments and my duties mean that I need to reduce my working hours. And so I  am super excited to be taking on a first contact physiotherapist role in Wolverhampton. I recognise just how important my skills and experience will be in this new position when it comes to referring on patients correctly and my ‘clinical mileage’ in recognising some of the more difficult conditions to diagnose, like axial SpA which still has an eight and half year average delay to diagnosis. 

It is so important for anyone in the FCP role to have a strong skill set in recognising these conditions and should not act as a gatekeeper into rheumatology, but instead be a key cog in the machine reducing the delay to diagnosis. 

Louise Preston has been an advanced practitioner in rheumatology physiotherapy at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust for seven years, and will be shortly moving into a new role as a first contact physiotherapist. She has been a supporter of the National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society and a member of AStretch, a group of physiotherapists specialising in axial spondyloarthritis including ankylosing spondylitis, for more than 10 years.


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