On Saturday 25 March, the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD) in conjunction with the University of Bath, sponsor GW4, the British Academy and the Bath Institute for Rheumatic Diseases (BIRD), hosted a Rheumatic Diseases Research Open Day. Following the open day visitors said they were 84 per cent more likely to take part in a research project after attending this event.

Over seventy people attended the event, held at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI) in Bath, which showcased local research projects on rheumatic diseases and was designed to interest members of the public, patients with rheumatic diseases and British Academy Early Career Researchers interested in this area of research.

A series of morning and afternoon talks were well attended by visitors and there was an exhibition displaying scientific posters on rheumatic diseases research where visitors enjoyed talking to researchers about their work. The research featured in the exhibition included scientific posters on Ankylosing Spondylitis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Psoriasis, Myositis, Osteoporosis, Covid and Vasculitis and Artificial Intelligence.

The Open Day featured senior speakers from the field of Rheumatology including; Professor Raj Sengupta, Consultant Rheumatologist from the RNHRD who specialises in axial spondyloarthritis; Dr Jen Pearson, UWE Bristol who talked about fibromyalgia; Mel Brooke, Patient Engagement Programme Director at BIRD who talked about the patient perspective; Dr Ben Davies, Physiotherapist in Rheumatology who talked about pain and related issues.

Other presentations included Romy Schwäbe, Sports Physiotherapist from Calne talking on spinal mobilisation and Dr Ben Mulhearn a Consultant from RNHRD speaking about inflammation and blood vessels. The event concluded with a question-and-answer session with the audience.

Dr Ben Mulhearn, Consultant at RNHRD, Bath and organiser of the event said: “This British Academy-funded public event brought together hospital and university researchers with other researchers from across the region to showcase the best of their work in rheumatic diseases.

"It also raised awareness of the breadth of work ongoing between the University of Bath and the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases and facilitated future collaboration between British Academy early career researchers and our establishments. It was an excellent opportunity to thank patients who have been involved in research and show what their participation has helped us achieve, hopefully enthusing a new generation of study participants!"

Professor Raj Sengupta, Consultant at RNHRD said: “I am delighted to have participated in this excellent open day which showcased the broad range of rheumatic disease research taking place in Bath. The strong collaborations between clinicians based at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases and researchers at the University of Bath were highlighted brilliantly throughout the day. The event was successful at bringing together patients and researchers and fostered great discussions which will hopefully generate new research proposals for the future.”

Bernard Fairhurst, from Stroud, a patient at the RNHRD since 1989 said: “Since being diagnosed with Axial Spondyloarthritis, I always look forward to BIRD’s events to learn about current research and have direct contact with clinical practitioners and researchers outside the hospital setting.

"I really valued the inclusive atmosphere of this event and how the speakers shared their work and promoted the need to include patient’s views. I also enjoyed interacting with people with a variety of auto-immune conditions as well as health professionals and researchers.

"The event gave me inspiration from professionals working to help people in my position, and optimism that there are many others like me who are projecting a positive outlook on life, that I am not alone and there is hope.”