Professor Neil McHugh is leading a £2 million project into improving the lives of those with the painful arthritic condition Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA).

The five-year research programme aims to improve diagnosis, referral pathways and clinical care for people with PsA.

Funded by The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the research is being led by Professor Neil McHugh, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology at the University’s Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology and Consultant Rheumatologist at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD).

Understanding what matters to patients

PsA is an inflammatory arthritis which affects around 400,000 people in England. It causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints and is accompanied in some severe cases by a chronic disfiguring skin disease. There is currently no specific test for PsA but emerging evidence suggests that earlier diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the effects of this disease.

Professor McHugh said: “I am delighted that we have received this significant amount of funding, this represents one of the largest awards ever granted to the RNHRD. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues across the country to make further progress in identifying and tackling this long-term condition.

“This research will also help us understand the best way to care for people with this condition as well as how to develop educational material and guidelines to provide support to patients, carers and the healthcare community.

“Understanding patients’ experience of this disease will be at the heart of this research. If we want to measure whether treatment for PsA is effective, we need to identify what matters to patients – looking not just at physical aspects, such as fatigue and pain, but also mental health and wellbeing and broader quality of life measures such as the ability to work or socialise.

“The research team brings together expertise from the University of Bath, RNHRD and from across the NHS, allowing us to deliver evidence-based, practical recommendations for tests that can look for the disease in its early stage, leading to quicker referrals for those with PsA.”

Collaborative research

Part of the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust (RUH), the RNHRD provides a specialist service for patients with PsA and is highly regarded nationally and internationally as a centre of excellence for the condition – helping sufferers to work towards a pain free, active life through a tailored combination of therapy, drugs and exercise.

The RNHRD will lead on the research programme in partnership with the University of Bath, and will work with other NHS Trusts and universities across the country.

According to the recent REF 2014 research assessment 93 per cent of pharmacy research at the University of Bath was defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ and was ranked sixth in the UK. Overall Bath ranked in the top 3 of universities with a School of Pharmacy.