Why I chose rheumatology as my career? … my answer “Why not rheumatology?”

Professor Bhaskar Dasgupta, Rheumatology Lead Consultant, tells us about why he’s joined Connect Health, his career to date and how the need to develop community care rheumatology capabilities is urgently required.

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The first advances in Covid treatment came from rheumatologists

When I started in the management of rheumatology conditions over 40 years ago, it was very basic, offering aspirin to patients with RA, but look at where we are now. More therapeutic advances have come from rheumatology than anywhere else, for example in the ways to treat Covid with life-saving medications eg steroids, interleukin-6 blocking agents such as tocilizumab, Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors etc.


It’s quite a challenging time for rheumatology and a time of change

One of the reasons I decided to join Connect Health is that the status quo is just not tenable between primary and secondary care. Every service needs a meaningful rheumatology community services provider. Rheumatology is a wide spectrum of diseases and therefore needs a wide spectrum of provider as well.


Rheumatology services are struggling to cope due to a shortage of rheumatologists

The big problem is the gap between demand and supply. The default option for patients needing support is the GP, but even the best GP does not have the specialist skills for coping with these conditions. So you need some additional services that can fill the gap.


I see Connect Health as filling the gap

Connect’s well trained and advanced physios who have undergone rheumatology training, have an ethos for asking for advice in MDTs and have expertise in MSK examination, can assess people with rheumatological problems and they are ideally suited to deal with the many conditions that primary care services can’t deal with. Of course, we still require the specialist secondary care services for more complex conditions but the relatively simple conditions can be dealt with in the community.


The need to develop community care capabilities is urgently required

The National Early Inflammatory Arthritis Audit showed many hospital services just can’t cope with seeing patients soon enough. Not only that, but to bring them back in a timely fashion is difficult. Connect Health can definitely provide support for the reviews of relatively stable patients who don’t need to go back to secondary care for their annual reviews.


My career spans 40 years

I was formerly the Head of Rheumatology and Clinical Director of Research and Audit at Southend University Hospital, working at the Trust as a consultant for nearly 31 years at which I was clinical director of research for almost 15 years.

I was also lead for MSK research for the North Thames Clinical Network. I have a long experience in developing rheumatologists and allied health professionals such as physios and nurses.


The way to develop clinicians is to get them involved in research

I hold an Honorary Professorship at Essex University and Queen Mary’s University London, and a Visiting Professorship at Anglia Ruskin University. ARU now has a medical school and we are trying to develop a research group for rheumatology research. I have a lifelong interest in Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) and Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) and have published over 350 original articles on these topics. I was convenor and first author of the BSR guidelines on PMR and GCA in 2009. As lead Investigator for the development of EULAR and ACR classification criteria for PMR, the study also led to validation of patient reported outcome measures for PMR.


The premier ultrasound course in the world

I could be considered one of the major leaders in this field particularly in the area of ultrasound. I’m running the 9th International Ultrasound Workshop and Symposium in GCA, PMR and LVV in May 2022 that focuses on ultrasound diagnosis and monitoring of cranial and extracranial large-vessel giant cell arteritis.

I have helped found the PMRGCAuk, the first national charity dedicated to PMR and GCA and am the Honorary President of the national charity and patron for several regional groups and PMRGCA Scotland.

I was born in Jamshedpur where I received my school education at Loyola School, and medical training at JIPMER, Puducherry and AIIMS, Delhi. I went to two of the best medical schools in India and came to the UK in 1983.


Why Connect Health?

Michael Dare, Connect’s head of rheumatology, has been in touch with me for many years and when he found out I was planning to retire, he asked if I would be interested in working with Connect Health. I’ve always been interested in leading change, so said why not?

I enjoyed meeting the people who are keen on developing and strengthening their local rheumatology services but have been most impressed by Michael – a young, energetic and enthusiastic learner, and someone who wants to change the world in many ways.


I’ve come to know many people at Connect

The nurses and MDT are all excellent and I enjoy teaching them. They work hand in hand with the hospital rheumatology departments to develop that nice bridge between primary and secondary care and do it in a sensitive, collaborative and allegiant manner.


If you’d like to find out more about working at Connect Health, contact people@connecthealth.co.uk

Click here to download Professor Bhaskar Dasgupta’s Story