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.
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 one called Getting the most out of your GP appointment.
Your first specialist appointment should be within 4–6 weeks, but it may be sooner if waiting times in your area permit.