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8th Astretch Conference, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Birmingham NEC.
"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 2018, 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

View 2014 conference report

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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