"Bolton Rheumatology Department"

About: Bolton PCT Royal Bolton Hospital

(as the patient),

I first attended the rheumatology service Early January 2010, on the day of my first appointment we woke to terrible snow, so I phoned lever chambers to say due to the dangerous weather I would be unable to make it, I was told if I cancelled at such short notice then I could wait the full 8 weeks again to see someone. So although driving conditions were horrendous my dad drove me and we did make it just in one piece. However when we got into the department we were told sorry none of the doctors etc have been able to get here. I explained I phoned and what I was told and they apologised I was then given the choice to wait an hour and see if anyone came in or go home, so while already there we waited just over an hour later as we were just about to leave a dr came in. It wasn’t the one I was booked to see but she agreed to see me.. I have to say her service was excellent although not completely her field she did everything she could and had me up at the hospital within hours having an MRI scan and blood and water tests were ordered and taken also.

I was then rearranged to a different doctor a week later, I arrived at this appointment and was told how my MRI's had shown degeneration to the spine and told of arthritis showing in other joints.

I was told I had seronegative inflammatory arthritis and degenerative disc disease, I was also given leaflets for sulfazalzine and methotrexate treatment, apart from these leaflets it was not explained what these diagnoses meant.

I phoned back a few weeks later as the sulfazalazine I had started was causing migraines and I needed to know if it was safe to stop taking, I was told someone would get back to me, they did two days later, sulfazalazine was stopped and I had another appointment to start the methotrexate, on this appointment I tried discussing with the doctor how badly this illness was causing a massive impact on my life, of disability, pain and general wellbeing. I was feeling very low, lonely and was even in tears, I was given a tissue and told to come back in 3 months after methotrexate had been started.

I left this appointment feeling at rock bottom as before this appointment I had hope of some help after it I had no hope 3 months felt like lifetimes away I was struggling to cope with one day.

After 6 weeks ago on speaking to my GP I asked about how long would it take to be rid of this illness, it was only then did my GP explain to me that I had a chronic illness and it wasn’t something that would go away completely although treatment could help, My world fell apart I though I could really take no more!

I attended my check up at 3 months but wasn’t seen by the same consultant as the previous two times. This time I was seen by Robin Hunter. I found Robin provided me with the care and explanation about my illness that I should have received from the start. His people skills were fantastic and he made me feel at ease. I wasn’t going mad with how much pain I was in and getting so upset by the massive impact on my life and all the standard day to day things I couldn’t do. Instead of fobbing me off he booked me in to see the occupational therapist so I could get some help to do some things myself again. He spoke to me about fibromaygia and said it had been thought I may have it and if there continued to be no improvement in my pain then they would re examine me. He gave me comfort and told me if I needed any help between appointments I should phone and ask for another appointment or to just speak to him.

I did phone once between my appointments and was told by reception I would need to wait till my appointment in three weeks, when I explained what Robin had said I was told sorry I cant see that on your notes. I went to see my GP who too was concerned and advised me to phone again I did this time after refusing to give in on the phone I was told someone would phone me back no one did two days later I again was on the phone saying I wanted to speak to someone. I did finally get through to Robin who apologised for the problem in getting in contact with him when I explained my issues they booked me in for the next day .

I’ve seen Robin again once or twice after this on check ups and Robin reffered me for Anti TNF Treatment when DMARD's failed I have since seen Mrs Bradshaw on three occasions since, twice to check DAS before Anti TNF treatment and once at my 3 month review.

On my three month review I asked about my continued pain and disability and I asked about the Fibromaylgia that had been suggested and I was already being treated for with Gabapentin and Amytriptiline. I was told not to worry about it I had enough to worry about with my arthritis and ddd.

I explained that I had started counselling and to cope I was trying to take a more active role in my treatment and understanding my illness, again I was told to just concentrate on my current diagnosis.

I have also seen the podiatrist at the rheumatology department and was given orthotics I was told on the day this would be followed up. I did tell the physio that I was still getting lots of pain in feet and asked if I would be reviewed I was told I would be but I’m still waiting of that. Since then my feet have worsened a lot and while still waiting of another appointment my GP has also diagnosed plantar fasias and tendoitis.

I also seen the physio in the rheumatology department and although the excerises she gave me were excellent I feel massage and heat treatment would help too, as for this I’ve had to pay privately. Even though all the equipment was there to do it, I was never offered it. I even asked and was told just to carry on with the exercises even through my GP explained massage therapy would help so I continue to have to pay for this.

I see Angela Eastwick in the rheumatology department regularly too and have to say her help has been invaluble. Due to Angela fantastic support I’ve been able to stay in work on my good days and even though I’ve had a tremendous amount of time she has given me help and support on speaking to my employers and not cutting them out. She has helped me with lots of aids to do what I can myself at home and also arranged for direct payments for the help I need with things I can no longer do for myself.

I have to say if there were more people in the health service like Angela Eastwick and Robin Hunter the health service would have be a fantastic place!! A big well done to them both.

Ive also seen Helenya for counselling but Im only three sesions in so unable to comment whether this will help or not yet but Im keeping an open mind.

Thanks very much for listening.