Research and innovation

Rheumatology has a strong academic and research base, and involvement from all grades is encouraged and supported. Integrated clinical academic training is well established and supported within the specialty at each level, and many trainees will spend further time in pure research studying for postgraduate degrees. This is well supported by Versus Arthritis with prestigious training fellowships offered annually to trainees. Consultant rheumatologists are supported in their research interests through national and regional training opportunities and through active comprehensive local research networks. Rheumatology research is well represented in NIHR research infrastructure with dedicated Biomedical Research Units in Leeds and Manchester, and many ARUK Centres of Excellence that support trainees and consultants in their research training and activity. Trainees, consultants and academics also benefit from well-established research networks, promoted through BSR special interest groups. The BSR also promotes best practice and clinical innovation, and research performance through its Best Practice Awards, and the its annual scientific meeting, a highly regarded clinical and academic meeting that supports and promotes rheumatology research from the UK and beyond.

Patient participation and R&I integration into clinical practice

Patients are involved at every level of research in rheumatology, and centres involved in clinical research have a long track record of active engagement with, and recruitment from, their cohorts. For example, the BSR Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) registry tracks the progress of >20,000 patients with severe RA who are receiving biologic agents, monitoring the safety and effectiveness of these treatments over a long-term period. A similar register was established for ankylosing spondylitis and has now completed recruitment, and the BSR has launched a psoriatic arthritis register.

Rheumatology also seeks to firmly integrate an experimental and translational medicine research agenda into clinical practice through:

  • its leading roles in the Translational Research Partnership
  • many multicentre research studies funded through the MRC Stratified Medicine awards scheme
  • its active role within NHS England to ensure patients with rare rheumatic diseases who receive advanced therapies do so in the context of academic-led research studies (eg rituximab in SLE and rituximab and vasculitis policies).

There are many opportunities for multicentre clinical research – most recently for example, a new Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work has been launched, involving collaborators across a number of institutions with the aim of identifying cost-effective ways to minimise the adverse impacts of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace.