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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1757-1146-6-34) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
GJH conceived and executed the study protocol (with contributions from KAG, KP, VdT, JB and KR). All co-authors contributed to the design of semi-structured interview scripts. GJH and LT interpreted the findings with assistance from all co-authors. GJH and LT drafted the manuscript and the final version was read and approved by all co-authors.
There is little indication that foot health services in Australia are meeting modern day recommendations for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients. The overall objective of this study was to explore the current state of foot health services for patients with RA with an emphasis on identifying barriers to the receipt of appropriate foot care in South-West Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
A mixed (quantitative and qualitative) approach was adopted. Indications for appropriate access to foot care were determined by comparing the foot health, disease and socio-demographic characteristics of patients with unmet foot care demands, foot care users and patients with no demands for foot care. Perceptions of provision of, and access to, foot care were explored by conducting telephone-based interviews using an interpretative phenomenology approach with thematic analysis.
Twenty-nine participants took part in the cross-sectional quantitative research study design, and 12 participants took part in the interpretative phenomenological approach (qualitative study). Foot care access appeared to be driven predominantly by the presence of rearfoot deformity, which was significantly worse amongst participants in the foot care user group (p = 0.02). Five main themes emerged from the qualitative data: 1) impact of disease-related foot symptoms, 2) footwear difficulties, 3) medical/rheumatology encounters, 4) foot and podiatry care access and experiences, and 5) financial hardship.
Foot care provision does not appear to be driven by appropriate foot health characteristics such as foot pain or foot-related disability. There may be significant shortfalls in footwear and foot care access and provision in Greater Western Sydney. Several barriers to adequate foot care access and provision were identified and further efforts are required to improve access to and the quality of foot care for people who have RA. Integration of podiatry services within rheumatology centres could resolve unmet needs of people with RA by permitting rapid access to expert-led multidisciplinary foot care for people with RA.
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