West Suffolk Hospital consultant rheumatologist Dr David O’Reilly leaves a lasting legacy with department
A consultant at West Suffolk Hospital who helped set up the rheumatology department has retired after 26 years of service.
Dr David O’Reilly joined the hospital in 1993 as a consultant physician and rheumatologist and created the department from scratch.
The 62-year-old, who lives near Ixworth, said: “If I leave a legacy, I hope it’s that everyone’s opinion counts, and that good team work makes for an efficient department.”
He remembers how his wife Jane spotted the rheumatology post at West Suffolk and thought it would suit him. Prior to that, Dr O’Reilly worked in the obstetrics department at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and was a GP for a year in Manchester before starting rheumatology training rotation there.
Rheumatologists treat patients with inflammatory joint disease, metabolic bone disorders and connective tissues diseases.
When he joined West Suffolk in 1993, the trust had only one other rheumatology consultant, and was running rheumatology clinics at West Suffolk Hospital, and in Sudbury and Newmarket.
In 2002, the trust recruited its first rheumatology specialist nurse, and around a year later Dr O’Reilly and his colleagues set up a structured process that involved all relevant clinicians and other members of the department to treat patients with early arthritis.
This way of working has since been adopted in other departments, and also by other trusts.
The team recruited more nursing staff and consultants over the next few years, securing more funding so more patients could be managed effectively.
In more recent years, increased funding has helped the department to provide additional clinics in Stowmarket, Haverhill and Thetford, reducing journey times for more rural rheumatology patients.
On creating the department, he said: “It was tough to begin with, but I surrounded myself with the right people, who were like-minded, innovative and patient focused. We all worked together to create a happy, healthy working atmosphere.
“Everyone whatever role, be it doctor, nurse, clinical and non-clinical, contributes their ideas so our whole department is unified and knows what the goals are.
“I’ve introduced a lot of changes over the years, as we are always keeping up to date with new resaerch and the best treatments.”
The father-of-four was named a ‘distinguished member’ of the British Society of Rheumatology in 2016.
On retirement, he said: “I’m really looking forward to it, but am also apprehensive as it is going to be a big lifestyle change. It will also be a learning curve, as I’m soon to become a grandad for the first time, to two new grandchildren.”
To mark his retirement, he has raised more than £500 for Arthritis Research UK through a collection.