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Step 2 – visiting the GP for the first time

At Step 2 you’ll visit your doctor for the first time. The links below will provide help about your first GP visit, controlling your symptoms and getting general health advice. There’s also other information that you may find helpful while waiting for your first specialist appointment, which should be within 4–6 weeks.

Inflammatory arthritis can often be difficult to diagnose, and a firm diagnosis can usually only be made by a consultant rheumatologist or a GP with a special interest in musculoskeletal disease (a GPwSI). Because the different forms of inflammatory arthritis are treated by specialist teams led by a consultant rheumatologist and are usually, though not always, hospital-based, this is a specialist area of care. This means that unless your GP has had additional training to be a specialist they may not have the level of experience, skill and knowledge needed to make a clinical diagnosis.

There’s no single test that you can take to tell you that you have rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis or psoriatic arthritis, and it’s important that if your GP suspects that you have one of these conditions, they should refer you as quickly as possible to a consultant rheumatologist to get a diagnosis.

As well as the organisations listed below, which provide information specific to people at Step 2, you may also be interested in the following general information:

An Arthritis Research UK guide to the members of the rheumatology team.

Arthritis Research UK information on fatigue and arthritis.

Arthritis Research UK information on exercise.

The British Pain Society has a range of publications featuring in-depth guidance on managing pain. 

The NHS Live Well pages offer general health advice covering a range of topics including healthy eating, exercise and stopping smoking.

The Patients Association has a range of guides including a consultation checklist.

Arthritis Care

Arthritis Care logoArthritis Care supports people with all types of arthritis through information, practical support and campaigning. They enable people to understand their condition, share ideas and learn how to get the best out of life with arthritis.

Birmingham Arthritis Resource Centre

Birmingham Arthritis Resource CentreThe aim of BARC is to promote self-care and self-management, supporting people with chronic and painful conditions to cope with their problems. Their information can be provided in a variety of forms and languages.


National Ankylosing Spondylitis SocietyThe National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society is the only registered charity dedicated to the needs of people affected by ankylosing spondylitis (AS) in the UK.


National Rheumatiod Arthritis SocietyThe National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society is the only patient-led charity focussing specifically on rheumatoid arthritis, providing support and information for people living with the disease.


Psoriasis associationThe Psoriasis Association is the leading national membership organisation for people affected by psoriasis – patients, families, carers and health professionals.

A long wait

Female doctorYour first specialist appointment should be within 4–6 weeks, but it may be sooner if waiting times in your area permit.

For more information, go to or call 0300 790 0400 to order the complete printed booklet.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.