Regular attendance at the AStretch Conference can assist in maintaining up to date standards, support innovation and maintain professional development and progression.

***SAVE THE DATE**** Saturday 25th March 2023 at a Birmingham NEC location - “Let’s Get Moving Again" more details to follow...

Conference in Birmingham

See below for reports from 2019, 2016 and 2014

Our 2019 conference was our 9th.

Digital Conference

First edition in 2018

Trying to vary how we run our conferences and allow access for more delegates we "went digital" / online only in November 2018.


Report from our 2019 Conference

The 2019 AStretch conference has once again proved to be a very successful and well-received conference. Feedback from delegates has been extremely positive in all areas. From the background organisation and facilities, through to the excellent guest speakers and AStretch committee members who presented at the conference.

It is noted anecdotally that numerous delegates were “new” to the AStretch conference for 2019 with the overall professional grade of delegates being predominately Band 6 and above. No junior grade staff (Band 5) were in attendance but this is expected considering the specialism of the conference. The committee were delighted to welcome 2 physiotherapy students, a physiotherapy technician, nurse and OT to the delegates this year.

Feedback from delegates has once again been extremely positive with regard to all aspects of the conference including the organization, venue and catering of the conference. The lectures in the plenary and breakout exercise sessions were rated highly with no speaker scoring below 4 out of 5. This is a fantastic achievement again and all speakers should be congratulated for their excellent contribution. Positive comments for the new poster viewing were received and it is proposed that this is continued at any future events.

Bumper no. of delegates

Expert speakers, interactive Q&As

Practical sessions

Delighted organising committee


Our review of #DigiAStretch18 was accepted as a poster presentation for BSR 2020

Responses from conference delegates:

“this has been excellent, well done to all involved”

“absolutely brilliant…a great CPD event”

“EULAR talk was great…interviews were good too”

“my NASS physios loved it” “what a great evening”

Conclusion:  We have shown that there is a high level of interest in a digital version of our AStretch conference. We have observed far reaching engagement and sharing of knowledge in a cost-neutral and user-convenient method, which has potential to ultimately improve patient care nationally and internationally.


Digital AStretch Meeting 2018

#DigiAStretch18 - we've gone digital, we do hope this format of meeting suited you well; wherever and whenever you are accessing this content

The AStretch team digital conference / meeting is now formally closed, but there are still some areas you can access.
Please click the images below to access the content.


Opening Remarks & Joining Instructions
Claire Harris,AStretch Chair; Will Gregory


A National Survey of the Utilisation and Experience of Hydrotherapy in the Management of Axial Spondyloarthritis: The Patients Perspective
Mel Martin, Annie Gilbert, Claire Jeffries


The results of the hydrotherapy survey and impact on service:
The Physiotherapist & Patient Perspective*

Mel Martin, Annie Gilbert, Claire Jeffries


Hydrotherapy survey Q&As**
Claire Jeffries & Mel Martin


Documentary “In My Bones”
Beecam Productions

NB: please watch with caution, not an ideal watch if you are newly diagnosed with AS/AxSpA.


Axial Spondyloarthritis Know-How: Setting up and evaluating a self-management education and exercise programme*
Mel Martin


Mel Martin


Fatigue Management*
Dr Jane Martindale


Exercise and impact on well-being: how to get people to exercise*
Claire Jeffries


Exercise Q&A**
Claire Jeffries


Closing Remarks
Will Gregory


Please do email us any feedback you have on this, our first attempt at a digital meeting, thanks

Reflections on the digital meeting

It was an absolute pleasure to have been given the permission of the AStretch Committee to take forwards the option of a digital meeting. I do think it is important we consider the best ways to get information out there. It is also important to appreciate the limitations of a traditional meeting. Having said that, I am now really looking forwards to the 2019 AStretch Conference for all the things it can do that a digital meeting could not!

So let’s look at the numbers first. We have had more than 24hours of #DigiAStretch content viewed on our new YouTube channel. We counted up about 80 “at the meeting”, but youtube analytics thinks 164 unique viewers, so that is pleasing. We have been delighted to get feedback from as far afield as India and Australia.

Feedback has been gratefully received about the slideset shares. There was some considerable confusion about why no audio on these. We’ll certainly take this feedback and work at different ways of delivering any of our in-house talks next time we run a digital meeting.

Running on a zero budget plan, we have learnt that delivery of digital content is hard to get as smooth as some of the drug companies are currently producing for Rheumatology.

It would be fantastic to think we can expand the net in recruiting contributors to any future running of a digital AStretch meeting. As a community it is hard to share as much as we should in Rheumatology Physiotherapy, and beyond. I’d love to think we could encourage better and more often sharing of good practice. Building a community that encourages, enriches and enhances each of our job roles / departments.

With our twitter followers being equally split between healthcare professionals and people with AxSpA it is interesting to consider what kind of impact we aim to have from these digital meetings. I was delighted with the end product of the “In My Bones” project, Sophie, Anthony and the rest of the team at Beecam Productions created a brilliant documentary. I have had colleagues tell me that they were left in tears on watching it . People with AxSpA have told me that it had a lot of points that resonated with their lived experience of the condition. I do think these discussions are useful to foster better empathy and better peer support.

So, what next. Well if I can get it together I would love to write up the experience of running the digital meeting for a scientific meeting. Enabling sharing how this was a workable plan and something that any small team could pull off. Lessons were certainly learnt on what worked well and what could be improved. I have learnt how to create and add content to a youtube channel. Have learnt ways to push content on twitter and certainly learnt that facebook work is best left in the hand of my colleague Susi(!)

So, to wrap up, please do keep commenting/ feeding back on the digital meeting and all the other AStretch stuff we produce.



8th Astretch Conference, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Birmingham NEC. 2016 
"Ankylosing Spondylitis and Axial Spondyloarthritis-What's New?"

Claire Harris, Chair of AStretch , opened the 8 th AStretch conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Birmingham, with a welcome to all our delegates. There were many new faces making the AStretch conference this year, hopefully their first of many. AStretch said thank you and goodbye to Amanda Thomas and Jill Lawrence who have stepped down as committee members since the last conference. However, Astretch have welcomed two new committee members, Melanie Martin and Will Gregory.

Dr Kirstie Haywood, began the conference with an excellent and thought-provoking presentation regarding ‘How Do We Define a Flare?’ which recognised the limitations of the current disease measuring tools in capturing the psychosocial impact of living with AS flares. We heard about the exciting development work underway with the ‘Aberdeen Flare Questionnaire’. Watch this space regarding this new clinical tool becoming available for clinical practice to help usto capture patient experiences of flares.

Sam Roskell, an extremely experienced biologics specialist nurse, gave us a more digestible understanding of the differences between biologics and biosimilars with a very helpful ‘Bake Off’ summary of how the manufacturing and research is different for biosimilars and how these differences translate into the clinic room.

Debbie Cook, Chief Executive of NASS , gave a really exciting update of the progressive work that NASS are doing to support patient care and education.Debbie presented the State of The Nation survey results, launched the novel ‘AS One’ project for younger patients with AS/Axial SpA and encouraged us all to sign up to the RCGP Axial SpA e-learning modules.
She also told us the exciting developments for the ‘Members Day’ in 2017 which this year will focus on flares.
Please go to for more information on all of these initiatives.

The Keynote Lecture was delivered by Dr Toni Chan 'The effect of exercise on the Immune System’ . This very stimulating presentation provoked many questions around type, dose and intensity of exercise, with a consensus moving towards exercise having a synergistic effect upon the benefits of biologic therapy and having a ‘disease-modifying’ effect on spondyloarthritis. It was encouraging to hear about the scientific basis on which we can also promote exercise having anti-inflammatory effects on the cardiovascular system.

Just when our thoughts were turning to lunch, the fabulous duo of Paul and Kev, from the Birmingham Walking Football Association, put us through our paces with a practical demonstration of walking football with matches being completed in good spirits but with some keen goal scorers. The concept of walking football for all ages and abilities within our AS/Axial SpA populations was really popular and delegates most definitely built up an appetite for lunch and a chance to reflect on the morning session.

Whilst some ‘walked’ their way around the make-shift football pitch, the other delegates heard from Karen Irons, with an update on the revised Bath Indices booklet , and alsofrom Will Gregory, who presented the results from an audit on services within the ASSIGNw group , which prompted discussions about optimal AHP staffing levels in Rheumatology Departments.

After a healthy lunch, Dr Jane Martindale presented her work entitled ‘ Working it out’ focusing on the disabling aspects of AS/Axial SpA and the impact on work productivity and absenteeism from work, covering the psychosocial aspects of the impact of living with AS and work.

Dr Rudi Shukla, a NIHR research fellow,went on to present his qualitative work on the decisions around disclosure of AS at work and the reassuring findings that those who chose to, found support was provided from employers to make any appropriate workplace adaptations where needed.

Perhaps the most anticipated event of the day was the ‘ Speed Dating’ break-out sessions. The only decisions to make were on areas of interest in AS to discuss, not love. A light-hearted concept of encouraging discussions got straight down to serious business under the pressure of a ticking clock and gave delegates a novel opportunity to discuss a range of topics, with members of the AStretch committee who facilitated discussions including research, NASS groups, annual/anti-TNF clinics, hydrotherapy and complex patients.

Finally, Claire Harris thanked all delegates for attending the conference and for their participation. A warm invitation was extended to the delegates to join the AStretch committee at the 9 th AStretch conference in 2019, which will be informed by the invaluable delegate feedback, which will shape the learning and networking opportunities at this next conference.
The 8 th AStretch conference was once again a full programme of high quality presentations, discussing the breadth and depth of the physiotherapist’s role in the management of AS/Axial SpA.

Once again, thanks to Claire Jeffries and Heather Harrison for their excellent organisational skills in bringing the whole thing together.

AStretch Commitee


About us

AStretch is a not for profit organisation; our main aim is to provide a co-ordinated approach to the planning and delivery of education and best practice. Also to support physiotherapists working with people who have Axial Spondyloarthritis (AxSpA) and Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).


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