COVID Voices: Understanding Personal Shielding Experiences of People Living with Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Disease

by | Jul 16, 2021 | COVID Shielding Voices, Research | 0 comments

People living with arthritis and musculoskeletal disease were amongst those identified as “clinically extremely vulnerable” to COVID-19 by the NHS England. Research, commissioned by Versus Arthritis, found the approach to shielding was unclear, causing confusion and uncertainty amongst patients.

A team at the Centre for Epidemiology Versus Arthritis is now undertaking a qualitative research project called Understanding personal shielding experiences: the voices of people living with arthritis and musculoskeletal disease (‘COVID Voices’) to explore the shielding experiences of people living with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. 

Our team

This study is proposed by patients, for patients living with arthritis and musculoskeletal disease. It will be designed, conducted, analysed and disseminated by patients, with support from academics at the Centre.

The ‘COVID Voices’ team, Dr Charlotte Sharp (Rheumatologist and lead researcher), Joyce Fox and Lynn Laidlaw (patient researchers), was recently granted funding by Versus Arthritis.

Our aim

The project aims to capture patient “stories” to understand and explore the experiences of people with musculoskeletal conditions, arthritis and rare rheumatological diseases who shielded during the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, this project aims to:

  • capture experiences and opinions on the process for determining who is identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, and how this might be improved. 
  • explore the impact of shielding upon individuals lives, including their ability to work, their ability to obtain food and medical supplies, their mental health, their musculoskeletal condition or arthritis, their interactions with healthcare providers, and how these experiences might be improved.

COVID Voices is a mixed methods study, where we aim to generate qualitative data from interviews and focus groups. Participants will also be invited to submit creative materials (such as poems, writing, photographs, pictures) by email.

Get involved

We welcome applications to be a member of our patient and public involvement group, from people living with musculoskeletal disease, arthritis or a rare rheumatological disease who shielded throughout the pandemic, sharing their insights and experiences to assist us conduct, analyse and disseminate (share) this research.

Because we are only funded for a short time-frame over 7 months, it is necessary for participants to be able to participate in online meetings, to comment on documents, and ideally to have some previous experience of patient and public involvement. Support will be available through these processes, but we need the team to have the skills to contribute from the beginning of their involvement. . We hope that the Patient Advisory Group (PAG) will assist us with

  • Defining the framework for analysis e.g. identify key themes to include in the analysis
  • Analysing the data (qualitative data from interviews and a focus group, and creative materials)
  • Participating in a dissemination event and in sharing the research results

If you would like to apply to become involved, then please complete the online demographics form.

We are collecting this information to try and ensure a diverse PAG. We also ask that you provide us with a brief statement outlining why you would like to be involved, your involvement experience and anything else that you feel is relevant or you would like us to know. We have funds to pay PAG members for their time and will follow National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) guidelines for public involvement including a contribution towards data and other expenses.

If you would like more information or a discussion in advance of applying to be a member of the PAG then please e mail either Joyce or Lynn at