The aim of this study was to explore patients’ experience of foot problems with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and their decisions to access foot care services or not.
Patients with a consultant diagnosis of RA and over 18 years of age were recruited from two rheumatology departments in the south west of England (UK).
All patients expressing an interest in the study were provided with a patient information sheet with a reply slip, agreeing to be contacted by the researcher.
A purposive sampling strategy was adopted by means of a sampling frame to capture a range of patient characteristics: age, gender, disease duration and accessed foot care services (podiatry, orthotics and/or orthopaedics) or not since being diagnosed with RA.
A detailed account of the experience of foot problems, patients’ reasons for accessing foot care or not and experiences of care received were explored using an interview topic guide.
Although it has previously been reported that foot problems affect patients’ ability to walk, this study highlighted that foot problems may also affect other activities such as the ability to exercise, socialise and particularly to undertake paid employment.
This study also highlights the importance of intrinsic foot problems as a cause of work related disability, not only through problems of mobility but also for some patients, their inability to comply with health and safety requirements.
Some patients described difficulty in sourcing footwear that was comfortable, accommodated deformities and was aesthetically acceptable.
Factors influencing patients’ decisions to access foot care or not were complex. Patients who accessed foot care considered their foot problems to be an important health care need.
In contrast, other patients reported that their foot problems were important issues but they had not accessed foot care.
This current study emphasised the importance of clinicians referring and/or recommendation as an additional factor influencing patients’ decisions to access foot care.
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