We are receiving a lot of telephone calls and are doing our best to respond within 24 to 48 hours or by booking a telephone appointment with a member of our team.
Before calling the Rheumatology Advice Line, please read the following frequently asked questions and check the helpful links:
The following link is to the NHS government website and contains regularly updated information about:
- Who is at higher risk from coronavirus
- Advice for people at high risk (previously advised to shield)
- Vitamin D supplements: The service for applying for free Vitamin D supplement has now closed
- Getting a shielding note for your employer: This service is paused as people at high risk are not currently advised to shield
- Pregnancy and coronavirus
- Other conditions and coronavirus
Frequently asked questions:
Advice for people at high risk from coronavirus (clinically extremely vulnerable)
People at high risk (clinically extremely vulnerable) from coronavirus (COVID-19) are advised to follow the same guidance as everyone else. This means you are no longer advised to stay at home (shield).
But there are still things you can do to help keep yourself safe:
- Get vaccinated – everyone aged 18 or over can book COVID-19 vaccination appointments now
- Wait for at least 14 days after you have had your 2nd dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before meeting with people
- Meet people outside if possible
- Open doors and windows to let in fresh air if meeting people inside
- Ask friends and family to take a rapid lateral flow test before visiting you
- Limit the number of people you meet and avoid crowded places
- Wear a face covering when it’s hard to stay away from other people – particularly indoors or in crowded places
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) has been extended until 30 September. You may continue to be eligible throughout this period, even though shielding is paused, providing your employer agrees.
- Everyone is currently advised to work from home where possible.
- If you cannot work from home, the government is no longer advising not to attend the workplace.
- Employers are required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Some employers may introduce regular testing of employees as part of these measures.
- Patients needing support to work at home or in the workplace you can apply for Access to Work. This may provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.
School, college and other educational settings
It is important that children attend school for their education, wellbeing, mental health and long-term development.
Clinically extremely vulnerable pupils and students should have returned to their school or other educational setting. This includes early years provision, wraparound childcare and applicable out-of-school settings.
Children who live in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable are not advised to shield and should have returned to school or college on 8 March.
Should I still attend my monitoring clinic appointment?
All patients should continue to attend for blood monitoring and hospital face-to-face appointments if given an appointment to do so.
Many clinic appointments are now telephone appointments but face-to-face appointments are increasing.
Patients can reschedule appointments if they cannot attend by calling:
Telephone: 0191 2824444
Should I have a COVID 19 vaccination if offered one?
The Astra Zeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are considered safe in patients who have rheumatic disease and who are immunosuppressed.
Recent data shows that in the small groups of immunosuppressed patients studied, vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic infection is 4% after the first dose but rises to 74% after the second dose. Further work is ongoing to look at specific groups of patients.
If you are receiving Rituximab, the vaccine should ideally be timed relative to the planned Rituximab infusions. Please call the helpline number for advice if you are offered a vaccine date.
You may find this link helpful when making decisions about the coronavirus vaccine. It has some frequently asked questions about the coronavirus vaccine.Versus Arthritis – vaccines for COVID 19 – your questions answered
Please follow the following government link to book your free vaccine. When you book, you will only be offered appointments for vaccines which are suitable for you.
Changes to the Rheumatology Service
Many of our clinics are now telephone clinics, reserving the few face to face clinics we have for more urgent issues and new patients.
We encourage people under our care to use our advice line if they require phone advice or feel they need to be seen by one of our team.
Telephone: 0191 213 7967
Face-to-face appointments are limited because of capacity in the Musculoskeletal Outpatient Department.
We cannot see as many patients as we were able to previously, because we need to make sure that patients and staff can remain safe and socially distance in the department.
Please do not attend the department if you have a cough, fever, loss of, or change in, sense of taste or smell.
- Please wear a face covering when you come to the hospital.
- Health professionals will be wearing protective equipment.
- We hope that you will feel safe if you need to attend in person.
You should continue to attend for your scheduled monitoring appointments, unless told otherwise.
If your blood tests have been stable, we may extend the time between blood tests.
In some cases, prescribed drugs will now be delivered to your house. Please make sure you tell us if you want to pick up your medications from the hospital pharmacy or if you want them sent to an alternative address.
You should order your prescriptions as normal on our Prescription Phone Line:
Telephone: 0191 213 8938
Day case unit
We are contacting some patients who are due to come to our Day Case Unit on Ward 20 in order to discuss whether we should postpone some treatments. If you are offered an appointment, please attend or let us know if you do not wish to attend.
- Social distancing is happening on the Day Case Unit so fewer patients can be treated at any one time.
- Please attend alone if possible (or discuss in advance with staff if this is not possible).
- Please wear a mask when you come to the Day Case Unit.
- The staff are wearing PPE so you should feel safe.
Tips to prepare for a telephone consultation
- The number may show as a private or withheld number.
- We may ring earlier or later than the time you have been given, we will try our best to make sure it is on the same morning or same afternoon.
- Please don’t worry if we do not reach you, we will reschedule a further telephone appointment at a later date.
- Please DO NOT phone the advice line to tell us you missed a telephone clinic appointment unless you have a specific problem you feel needs urgent review or have been asked do so in your clinic letter.
- Be somewhere where you can have a private/confidential conversation.
- Have a list of your medication ready.
- Think about what issues you want to discuss before the call.
Information for GPs
Advice and referrals
Advice and guidance is available as previously for general practitioners to contact the department.
Urgent cases should be discussed with the on-call team via the hospital switchboard.
We have reduced capacity to see new patients. We will not be able to see patients routinely who do not have an inflammatory rheumatic condition, or where our input is unlikely to provide clinical benefit to the patient.
Our rheumatology helpline is also available if the query / message is not appropriate for Advice and Guidance or on call urgent issue.
Telephone: 0191 213 7967 Monday – Friday 9.00am – 4.00pm
Early Arthritis Clinic
Our Early Arthritis Clinic continues to run and has reverted back to a two stage clinic. We are asking GPs to perform blood tests for patients before they attend. The referral form is available for GPs to use within their referral system.GP Referrals to Newcastle's Early Arthritis Clinic
Giant Cell Arteritis
Our fast track service for suspected Giant Cell Arteritis (also known at Temporal Arteritis) is running as normal:Newcastle Hospitals' Giant Cell Arteritis Fast Track Pathway
We are NOT advising patients to routinely stop or reduce their medications.
Useful contact numbers
Rheumatology Advice Line:
Telephone: 0191 213 7967
Repeat prescription request line
(for patients who normally receive their rheumatology prescription from us)
Telephone: 0191 213 8938
Connective Tissue Disease Specialist Nurses
Telephon: 0191 223 1503
Ward 20 Day Case Unit
Telephone: 0191 223 1699