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RA treatment delays criticised

26th February 2010

MPs have criticised the length of time it takes to diagnose and offer treatment to people with rheumatoid arthritis.

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The Commons Public Accounts Committee says there has been no improvement since 2003 with the average time between a person’s onset of symptoms and their first treatment currently around nine months in England.

This is despite guidelines suggesting the timescale should be three months.

Committee chairman Edward Leigh said: “Applied as early as possible but certainly within three months of the onset of symptoms, appropriate treatment can lead to remission, prevent pain and disability and help people with the condition to continue working.”

MPs say patients who do not receive timely treatment are more likely to suffer from a greater degree of disability, as well as heart and lung complications.

The committee was also concerned that lack of training on musculoskeletal conditions meant that GPs did not refer patients to specialists as quickly as needed and has called for improved GP training in this area.

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of the Arthritis Research Campaign, said: "Dramatic developments in both the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis now offer the potential to make a significant difference to a disease that was, for far too long, thought to be difficult to manage.

“These research advances now need to be matched by a change in the way that patients are recognised, diagnosed and treated, especially in the critical early stages of the disease."

The Arthritis Research Campaign welcomed the Public Accounts Committee report.

 

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