Physios are top winners at ankylosing spondylitis patient choice awards

Physiotherapists led the line-up of winners at the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Patients’ Choice Award, held at the Houses of Parliament on 3 December.

Rhona Galway of Ulster Hospital won the Best care by a physiotherapist award. Photo: NASS

Three individual physios, Rhona Galway, CodrinBuleu and Claire Jeffries triumphed at the ceremony, along with three multidisciplinary teams that included physiotherapists.

Patients nominated all the winners and voted online for those they felt had gone above and beyond the call of duty to help people with axial spondyloarthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

Ms Galway, who works at Ulster Hospital in Northern Ireland, won the award for Best Care by a Physiotherapist, with a patient nominee describing her as ‘a one of a kind; and the best physio ever!’

She told Frontline: ‘These patients have long-term needs that can be debilitating, and one of them nominated me for their treatment over the last eight years. Having failed on biologic medication, they felt that the treatment they received from me had been invaluable and kept a smile on their face.

Ms Galway has been a practising physio for 27 years and set up a service for patients with spondyloarthropathy in 2005, providing annual reviews of service users Bath Indices, as well as general health measures such as blood pressure and spirometry.  

‘Over the past 21 years there have been so many advances in patient care including an increased emphasis on self-management and of course the huge advances in medical management with the era of biologic therapy and tailored medicine,’ she said.

‘But behind every patient there is an individual story and on occasions patients don’t always respond to pharmacological treatment. This is where physiotherapy comes into its own – by empowering people to maximise their potential and achieve their goals and by promoting self-management as much as possible.’

Improving NASS branch services

Meanwhile, Mr Buleu, a physiotherapist at St George’s Hospital, London, received the Best Branch Physiotherapist award.

He told Frontline he started working with the Tooting branch of NASS in May last year.

Best branch physiotherapist award winner Codrin Buleu. Photo: NASS

‘I joined a team of six therapists and two assistants who were providing both gym based and pool based exercises and in June 2017 I had the opportunity to become the lead of the St. George’s physiotherapy team for the branch,’ he explained.

‘And shortly after that NASS members wanted us to look at the structure of the classes and consider a more diverse and extended array of exercises and stretches.

‘With the help of the incredible team that I’m part of we managed to roll out a questionnaire to NASS members attending the classes and we had a meeting afterwards to discuss findings and to put a plan in place.’

The resulting improvements prompted his nomination for the award, with branch members explaining that his actions had ‘updated the standard of teaching to a whole new level’ and ‘improved NASS group sessions immeasurably’.

‘We must have done something right,’ said Mr Buleu.

‘And it couldn’t have happened without the enthusiasm and the dedication of my fellow physiotherapists Fiona Laws, Carmen Lech, Sally Finlay, Dennis Aboagye and assistants Jean Hudson, Alex Richardson, Candon Harewood and Anna Rochowiak.’

Life changing physio

At the close of the ceremony Claire Jeffries, a physiotherapist at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, part of Solent NHS Trust, received the individual ‘You Changed My Life’ award.

Her nomination highlighted her ‘professionalism, knowledge, commitment, thoughtfulness, leadership, attention to detail, willingness to help at any time - often in her own time’.

You changed my life award winner physio Claire Jeffries. Photo: NASS

And included this comment from a patient: ‘I will always admire, be totally thankful and be in awe of her. I owe her my mobility and life.’

Physiotherapy team winners

The team award for Best Branch Physiotherapist went to the NASS Newport and Caerphilly team Laura Purnell, Ioan Lilly, Emma Fox and Rachel Donaldson.

In their nomination, the teams’ patients said: ‘Each of the team goes out of their way to provide a varied exercise program each week and are happy to give members individual attention and advice when needed’.

Two specialist clinics at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and York Hospital won the Best AS Team award. Both of the teams include physiotherapists: Elizabeth Feber in Leeds and Heather Harrison in York.

The award-winning pair work closely with their local NASS branches and the patient nominations for the Leeds team described them as a ‘breath of fresh air’, while patients treated by the York team said they were ‘patient, understanding and most importantly kind’.

Transformational physios

The You Changed My Life team award went to University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff.

Their patient nominee said:  ‘My life with AS has been changed - and immeasurably improved - by the constant support and work of the AS physiotherapy team’ and ‘thank you for changing the life I could have had with AS, to the one I have had ’.

The team mainly consists of physiotherapists and the award winners were both past and present members of the team.

The You Changed My Life team award went to University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. Photo: NASS

Emma Sargeant and Richard Rudling-Smith were pioneers in setting up the specialist physiotherapist services at the hospital and now work at Cardiff University; while Matt Boyd-Anderson and Esther Howells currently work at the hospital and are continuing to deliver the services.

Physiotherapists featured prominently in the winning awards

Natalie Beswetherick, CSP director of practice and development, attended the awards and told Frontline: ‘The award winners demonstrated that physiotherapy transforms lives.’

Every Patient, Every Time

Also commenting on the awards, Dale Webb, NASS chief executive, said: ‘We all know how important physiotherapy is to people with AS and so we are absolutely delighted to be able to honour so many working in the profession, and to see their contribution to health and well-being recognised by their patients.’

The awards ceremony coincided with the launch of NASS’ new campaign Every Patient, Every Time.

At the event, NASS announced the formation of a new all-party parliamentary group that aims to ensure national oversight of the implementation of a new quality standard and guidelines for Spondyloarthritis, published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

NASS also launched their new Aspiring to Excellence initiative at the event, which aims to create a UK-wide network of rheumatology services that will work together to achieve the highest level of care for AS patients.


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