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Arthritis sufferers let down by NHS

22nd January 2009

A new report has revealed that rheumatoid arthritis patients in the UK are receiving varying levels of care due to differences between healthcare services.

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The report from the Rheumatology Futures Project Group (RFPG) and carried out by the King's Fund, reveals inconsistencies from one region to another over issues such as early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and how best to manage flares.

"Unacceptably wide variations" in quality of care emerged as well as differences in access to treatment.

The survey took into account the views of 912 patients and 501 medical staff.

Report author Martin Lane said: "Our report demonstrates the need for more consistent provision of specialist care for people with rheumatoid arthritis and better implementation of guidance and best practice.

"GPs need to develop a greater awareness of the indicators that would trigger an early referral to a specialist, while patients themselves said they needed far more information about local services and education to help them manage their condition."

The Arthritis Research Campaign agreed with the findings over regional variations in levels of care.

A spokeswoman said: "The care that patients receive in teaching hospitals, many of which have early arthritis centres, can be completely different to that offered in a small district general hospital which may not even have a rheumatology department, let alone a rheumatology nurse and other members of a multi-disciplinary team.

"Early referral to hospital from primary is slowly improving, but GPs' awareness of the need to refer on early still needs to be considerably improved."

 

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