Arthritis treatment not meeting demand, warn societies

Man wringing his hands in pain Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption There are 25,000 people living with rheumatoid arthritis in Wales

Concerns have been raised over services for arthritis patients in Wales.

The number of people referred to rheumatology departments in Wales has risen by 66% since 2012, and arthritis societies claim treatment is not keeping up with demand.

As a consequence new patients are waiting longer to be seen and existing ones are lacking support, they said.

The Welsh Government said care is provided "as locally and quickly as possible."

A joint report by the British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) and the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) found 12% of the adult population in Wales identify themselves as having some form of arthritis.

This is similar to the number of people identified as having a mental illness (13%) and higher than those with diabetes (7%).

The report also found just 22% of patients in Wales with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were seen within three weeks during 2016, compared to the national average of 37%.

Image copyright SPL

Wales was said to have the lowest number of Early Inflammatory Arthritis clinics which leads to service delays.

But it was the best performing region of the UK for GP referrals, with 46% of newly diagnosed RA patients being referred within three days of first presentation, compared to the national average of 20%.

Patients who were already in the system faced problems, with 40% saying intervals between appointments were too long to keep their condition under control.

The societies are now calling for a paediatric rheumatology service to be set up in south Wales.

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Media captionKelly O'Keefe was diagnosed with arthritis at the age of seven

They told Newyddion 9: "There is no specialist paediatric rheumatology centre or full dedicated multidisciplinary paediatric rheumatology services in Wales - the only home national without such a centre.

"Arthritis Care, NRAS and the BSR believe children with arthritis in Wales deserve better."

The Welsh Government said health boards were responsible for meeting the needs of people in their areas suffering from conditions like RA.

A spokesman said: "Through the national primary care plan and the commissioning directive for arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions we continue to raise awareness and support people to reduce their risk of these conditions and, where they do occur, to assess, diagnose and provide ongoing care as locally and as quickly as possible."

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