A specialist regional service based in Southampton for patients with the immune condition lupus has been named a national centre of excellence.
The service at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) was awarded the status by charity Lupus UK in recognition of the quality of care provided to patients over many years.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs and can affect almost any part of the body.
It is most common in females – approximately 10 to one female to male ratio – and research shows it is most often triggered during spells of high hormone activity in the reproductive years.
The condition can be difficult to diagnose and treat and sufferers can experience a range of mild to severe symptoms including rashes, joint swelling, hair loss and mouth ulcers, as well as inflammation in the lining of the heart or lungs, seizures and other nerve problems.
The Southampton clinic – which sees more than 700 patients every year – was set up in October 2002 by consultant rheumatologists Professor Chris Edwards and Dr Brian Davidson with a commitment to ongoing research into the causes of the disease and an aim to develop innovative and pioneering treatments.
“We set up the clinic with the aim of ensuring all patients with lupus have access to the best specialist care and latest treatments, while also being at the leading-edge for research which will ultimately lead to improved outcomes,” said Professor Edwards.
“We now have three consultants with a special interest in lupus, two specialist nurses with the first sister position initially funded by Lupus UK but now fully funded by UHS given the success of the role and the wider service.”
He added: “To be recognised with this award means so much to us all as it is all about patient care and experience and that has been the driving force behind everything we do.
“It has helped us draw in the very best experts across different medical specialities. We know how reassuring that is for patients who have been diagnosed with a life-long condition that can be very debilitating.”
The clinic is part of the rheumatology department at UHS which has over 30 staff who all have experience of treating lupus patients, while the service also benefits from partnerships with other hospitals across the region which widens expertise.
The service has continued to run throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with patients continuing to receive video, telephone or, where necessary, face-to-face appointments, as well as access to a specialist telephone advice line for guidance and information on their condition.
Patients are referred from GPs throughout Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Dorset while referrals are also received from other departments within Southampton General Hospital and hospitals around the region.
The lupus service is part of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) centre of excellence, which is a register of the top research centres in European rheumatology with the aim of developing first-class research centres and enable exchange of findings.
Paul Howard, chief executive of Lupus UK said: “Lupus UK is delighted to acknowledge University Hospital Southampton as a centre of excellence. Following an assessment visit to the clinic and team, we were very pleased to see the high quality care provided to people living with lupus and the compassion displayed by the clinic staff.”
He added: “The Southampton clinic is one of ten hospitals recognised as a Lupus UK centre of excellence in the UK and the high quality service it provides is very important for people affected by the condition who live in Hampshire as well as the surrounding areas.”
Posted on Thursday 25 March 2021