Royal College of Nursing Representing nurses and nursing, promoting excellence in practice, shaping health policies

Meet the Team

Julie Begum

Forum Chair
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Luton and Dunstable NHS Trust

Julie qualified in 2002 and worked in elderly care, acute medicine and emergency care before taking up a sister’s post on a general medical ward. She began her career in rheumatology as a clinical nurse specialist in 2008 and took an interest in patients with early inflammatory arthritis. She has been part of the team that has developed the early inflammatory arthritis pathway within the department to ensure patients get access to treatment and follow up care appropriately. She led the team in the recent HQIP national audit on inflammatory arthritis which has seen the Luton and Dunstable Hospital recognised by BSR as a best practice site.

Julie successfully set up regular patient and public information events for rheumatology that were recognised in a local awards ceremony in 2010 for "improving lives". She undertook and obtained her independent nurse prescribing qualification in 2015, took up her lead nurse post in rheumatology in late 2016, and looks forward to teaching at the University of Bedfordshire on the pre-registration nursing course on long-term conditions in March 2017.

Her passion in the last few years has been the education of new rheumatology nurses. She has developed her own brand of rheumatology educational sessions regionally entitled "Learning Rheum" focussing on core skills for rheumatology nurses. She hopes to continue working on this project and to go on to develop resources and on-line training to support new learners in rheumatology. Her other interests include health promotion and psoriatic arthritis.

Polly Livermore

National Institute Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow April 2017- March 2020, Great Ormond Street Hospital

Since qualifying in 1997, Polly has spent nearly nineteen years working in the specialty of paediatric rheumatology. She began as a staff nurse on the Rheumatology ward at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), before working sequentially as a senior staff nurse, clinical research nurse, nurse practitioner, advanced nurse practitioner and clinical nurse manager.

Polly has currently been seconded out of her most recent matron role at GOSH for after being awarded one of four Nursing NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowships in the UK in 2017. Polly's PhD subject area is the psychosocial needs and lived experience of children and young people with juvenile dermatomyositis.

Polly was the lead paediatric author on the RCN methotrexate guidelines in 2004, the 2nd edition in 2013 and the 3rd edition in 2016. She has been involved in writing policies regarding biological therapies, attended expert meetings at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), attended meetings at the Houses of Parliament, been constantly proactive in the paediatric rheumatology nursing group and has lectured nationally and internationally. Her specialist areas of interests are paediatrics, methotrexate, biological therapies and juvenile dermatomyositis.

Helen Smith

Rheumatology Nurse Specialist, Brighton and Sussex University Hospital Trust

Helen has been a nurse for over 30 years and has worked in a variety of specialities. She trained at Central Middlesex Hospital in London and worked in general medicine, including cardiac, CCU, and general surgery.

She then spent time travelling before nursing overseas in a urology ward. During this time she completed her BA in health service management and a clinical tutor course. On returning to England she worked on an elderly care rehabilitation ward and a surgical ward, before becoming a clinical site manager.

Helen has been in her current role for eleven years. During this time she completed her MDipCert advanced nurse practitioner and more recently the non-medical prescribing. Her key areas of practice are running nurse led early arthritis and biologic clinics.

Julie Painter

Senior Rheumatology Nurse Specialist & Nurse Manager

Julie qualified as an RGN in 1988 having attended the Mid-Worcestershire School of Nursing.  Julie initially worked at Kidderminster General Hospital as a Staff Nurse in the Elderly Care Unit and then left the NHS to pursue a career as Deputy Matron and Matron of a nursing home.  She then returned to the NHS and began her rheumatology nursing journey in 2001.  Julie has worked as a staff nurse and day unit sister in rheumatology before becoming a specialist nurse in 2006, and completed her non-medical prescribing qualification in 2005.

Julie has had the opportunity to develop her nursing skills during this time, including having Teacher status with the NMC, and clinical skills in joint injections and most recently nail fold video capillaroscopy. She has developed a special interest in connective tissue disease and rheumatology and pregnancy. Julie has been an active member of the Lupus UK Nurse Networking meetings and has developed the connective tissue service in her current post.

Julie has a passion for learning and education, for both her nursing colleagues and also the patients, and will aim to use this passion to support the RCN Rheumatology Forum through the next decade. 

Sharon Petford

Clinical Nurse Specialist Biologics, The Dudley Group Hospital NHS Trust

Sharon qualified in 1994 from South West Manchester; she has worked in a variety of setting within Trauma, Orthopaedic and Rheumatology including The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital and The Royal Wolverhampton NHS trust.  As a Sister in Critical Care she set up follow up clinics for patients post critical care.  Along the way adding in a diploma and BSc (hons).

She became a CNS in Rheumatology in 2005 and 2009 took up the post of CNS Biologics. Since then she has completed her MSc in Rheumatology incorporating joint injections and recently became a  NMP.

Her current focus has been in biologics and implementing the Virtual clinics and education programme as part of a team approach within her department.  This template has been utilised for the Osteoporosis service within the department. She has  an interest in Young adults and their long term care, plus the long-term sustainability of the Rheumatology CNS and ongoing education.

Alison Kent

Rheumatology Nurse Manager, Salisbury Foundation Trust Hospital
Alison has been working in Rheumatology for the past 22 years and has been living with RA herself for 30 years.

With both a personal and professional interest she feels motivated to educate and raise awareness of Rheumatological conditions and the impact of living with a long term disease.

Alison has been involved with several task forces in EULAR including those focused on the monitoring of co-morbidities, information dissemination, use of gluco-steroids, difficult to treat RA and patients as research partners.

Alison has participated in government lobbying and the setting of European standards for people with musculoskeletal diseases. She is also a volunteer for NRAS and an MSK Champion for Versus Arthritis. Alison is currently undertaking the Versus Arthritis Leadership Course, which is aimed at current and future leaders in MSK.

Alison has a real interest in supporting the learning needs of other Rheumatology Healthcare Professionals and has experience of facilitating workshops on topics such as coaching in healthcare, shared-decision making, motivational interviewing, consultation and communication skills and the use of PROM’s and PREM’s. She has also been involved in the writing of an on-line learning platform for Rheumatology Nurses.

Alison feels it has been extremely exciting and a privilege to have been working in an area of medicine that has, and is, developing so quickly thanks to new therapies and treatment approaches whilst maintaining a patient centred approach to care. 


To follow


Professional Lead: Dawne Garrett

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Page last updated - 25/03/2020