Thank you for contacting me about arthritis. I know myself this can be a very painful and debilitating condition.
To help clinicians to identify the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and make prompt referrals to specialists, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidelines in 2009. This best practice guideline sets out the signs and symptoms of the disease and emphasises the need for early diagnosis, with urgent referral to a specialist rheumatologist on suspicion of RA. The commissioning of arthritis services, including the establishment of arthritis clinics, is the responsibility of local areas, taking account of the needs of the local population.
The national clinical audit of rheumatoid and early inflammatory arthritis published its latest report in July 2016 and assesses the quality of care by specialist rheumatology services. The report showed significant improvements in patient experience and the time taken to receive treatment, although there are areas where further improvement needs to be made. The report makes a range of recommendations, including improving the training and awareness and amongst GPs, and it encourages all participating organisations to reflect on their own performance and consider what more could be done. You can access the full report here if you would like to know more detail about current thinking about best practice in treating arthritis, and how to further improve care: http://www.hqip.org.uk/resources/rheumatoid-and-early-inflammatory-arthritis-2016/
The Work and Health Unit has been established to lead the drive for improving work and health outcomes for people with health conditions, like arthritis, as well as improving prevention and support for people absent from work through ill health and those at risk of leaving the workforce. The Unit will seek to do this by improving integration across healthcare and employment services as well as supporting employers to recruit and retain more people with long term health conditions.
Despite tight public finances, the Government has actively supported the NHS’ own plan for the future. That is why it is providing the additional £10 billion of investment per annum in real terms by 2020/21 – compared to 2014/15 – requested to fund a transformation in care.
Thank you again for taking the time to get in touch.