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TX: 05.04.04 – NHS FAILING PEOPLE WITH ARTHRITIS SAYS SURVEY

PRESENTER: WINIFRED ROBINSON



THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY

ROBINSON
The largest survey undertaken in the UK of people with arthritis suggest that the management and care of the condition is failing the vast majority of patients. One adult in five has osteoarthritis, caused when the cartilage cushioning the joints wears thin, it's the biggest cause of physical disability in the UK but it hasn't been made a priority in the new GP contract. The survey was carried out for the charity Arthritis Care and it concludes that four out of five people with arthritis are in constant pain and that many of them can't manage everyday household tasks. Glennis Harding from Sidcup in Kent has had osteoarthritis for 17 years and so she says she has been living with pain since she was 47.

HARDING
Some days can be just a dull ache, as if you've - say you're badly bruised - but other days it's just unbearable and if I don't take painkillers I go and lay on the bed to just sort of relax for a while. But it is very, very hard at times.

ROBINSON
How does it affect your life?

HARDING
Well I used to be very, very sporty - I used to ride a bike everywhere, swimming and do lots of walking, I've done 10 ks - and now everyday you have to think and plan what you're going to do and where you're going, can you manage it, is there a lot to walk, are there any stairs. We use the word spontaneity - that's gone from your life.

ROBINSON
How good or bad do you think has been the treatment that you have received here over the years?

HARDING
With both of my hands I've had those operated on - they were good but I obviously had to wait for them 18 months - 2 years. But when it started coming to my hips then it started getting bad, I was very lucky in the sense - I waited 18 months for my right hip and then it was so bad we were going - we went to the surgeon to get him to do a private package but I was lucky my company paid for it. And then - that was 1991 - and then I had a fall which obviously helped my knee farther on with the arthritis, I went to the doctors I was told within six months, 10 months later nothing and that was pestering his office every two or three weeks. And in the end I went back to the doctor I said I just can't cope and she said can you afford to pay? I said well I can't but I'll have to. And she recommended me to the Horder Centre for Arthritis, which is in Crowborough, which if you're in the catchment area is NHS but if you're outside, as we were, you're private.

ROBINSON
What did it cost you?

HARDING
That cost me, with the knee, came to about £6,000 ish.

ROBINSON
A lot of money.

HARDING
Yes.

ROBINSON
And what about the day to day pain management?

HARDING
I'm obviously on anti-inflammatory medicine and you just take that every day automatically. I can cope with that because before that I'm very stiff and as my dear husband says I wobble along but once that kicks in I'm not too bad but if it does get bad - I mean like today, before I came out, obviously I take paracetamols and I'll take them when I go home. I self-regulate.

ROBINSON
Why do you think arthritis attracts so little attention?

HARDING
It isn't very glamorous is it, you haven't got heart people rushing around and if you've got a broken arm someone says poor soul you've got a broken arm and you get sympathy. But this is inside and it just isn't glamorous.

ROBINSON
Glennis Harding. Kieran Kettleton's director of communication for Arthritis Care. How many people were surveyed for your report?

KETTLETON
One thousand seven hundred and sixty two were interviewed.

ROBINSON
And how did you find them - are they a random sample?

KETTLETON
These are a random sample of over half a million people that contact Arthritis for information.

ROBINSON
Well as I've said the picture is very much of the system failing the vast majority of them and I know that you want arthritis to be included in the GP contract. What difference do you think that would make?

KETTLETON
Well it's staggering that arthritis has been left out of the GP contract now, other conditions are there but not arthritis and yet there are eight and a half million people in the UK with osteoarthritis and that's a population larger than some countries in Europe, that's why we call this report OA Nation. If arthritis is included in the GP contract then there would be UK wide standards of care established, we would expect to see something like regular medication reviews so that patients could come back with regular appointments, automatic recall dates, regular pain level checks and maybe a standardised pathway of care that GPs would follow.

ROBINSON
Now we put your points to the Department of Health and they said two things. One that two new classes of drugs have been approved for use with osteoarthritis and they've been made available after review by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and they also said that they have recently announced specialist teams to be based across the country in every health authority which will provide advice care and treatment for people with chronic diseases, including of course arthritis.

KETTLETON
That's of course to be welcomed but what the report shows and this is the most comprehensive study of people with arthritis, it shows that people often wait too long before they go to their GPs - a third of people don't go to the GP at all, over half of them wait until the pain is really intense before they'd approach their GP. So we're really encouraging people with arthritis to go and talk to their GP, find out what's available and these new classes of drugs that have been introduced, there is so much more available now than perhaps when they were diagnosed. And so many people with arthritis - and most of us know someone with arthritis - have been brought up with an attitude which says - Oh you mustn't grumble - or - put up with it, suffer in silence - and we really need people to go and talk to their GP so that they can get the most appropriate treatment.

ROBINSON
Kieran Kettleton thank you very much.


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