OASIS team win British Society of Rheumatology award

05 May 2016

A University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) multi-disciplinary team working with patients suffering from the rare Sjögren’s syndrome has been rewarded for its innovative work.

The Optimising Assessment in Sjögren’s Syndrome (OASIS) team has been named as a winner in the Outstanding Best Practice category at the 2016 Best Practice Awards in Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Health.

Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune rheumatic disease affecting just 0.1-0.6 percent of the UK population and more common in women.

It is characterised by inflammation of the saliva and tear glands, leading to dryness of the mouth and eyes, but other symptoms include joint pain and severe fatigue and, in the long-term, five percent of patients go on to develop lymphoma cancer, often of the salivary glands.

Ben Fisher, OASIS team

Members of the OASIS team (left to right): Sister Joanne Dasgin (Research Nurse), Prof Simon Bowman (Rheumatology), Dr Ben Fisher (Rheumatology), Dr Francesca Barone (Rheumatology), Dr Jon Higham (Oral Medicine), Dr Guido Granata (Clinical Fellow), Ms Saaeha Rauz (Ophthalmology).

However, there is a lack of proven treatments for the condition and tests to predict lymphoma development and other complications.

Care for patients requires input from rheumatology, oral medicine and ophthalmology specialists and the availability of histopathology also helps to speed up diagnosis.

The OASIS project pulls together all of these services under one roof for regular clinics in the new Centre for Rare Diseases at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and has resulted in faster diagnosis, more co-ordinated care and improved patient participation in research.

“What we aimed to do was to expand the existing clinical services for people with Sjögren’s syndrome and increase the capacity,” said project lead, consultant rheumatologist Dr Ben Fisher,

“We offer a more streamlined, truly multi-disciplinary clinic with a research project alongside. Every patient who attends the clinic is offered the option to become part of the research cohort and most agree to that.

“This typically involves an additional questionnaire, blood samples, etc. The data we collect also allows us to assess whether patients might be suitable for entry into clinical trials and that is allowing us to increase our recruitment into those trials.

“A lot of work has gone into to developing the patient cohort at the clinic and the recognition of this award is enormously encouraging.”

Dr Peter Lanyon, president elect of the British Society of Rheumatology (BSR) and chairman of the judging panel, said: “The panel was greatly impressed by the impact the initiative has made in challenging this disease area, reducing delays to diagnosis and treatment and improving the co-ordination of specialist care for patients.

“We also felt that the initiative could be adopted by services in other localities and could potentially be translated to other rare conditions.”