23 October 2023

In a recent debate held in the UK Parliament’s Westminster Hall marking World Arthritis Day, Tom Randall, MP for Gedling, championed the issue of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. Mr Randall’s passionate and very personal speech shed light on the physical, social, and economic impact of these conditions and the urgent need for government action.

The debate, attended by the Minister for Health and Secondary Care, Will Quince MP, highlighted the significant delays in diagnosing musculoskeletal conditions, particularly axial spondyloarthritis. Mr Randall referred to the latest National Early Inflammatory Arthritis Audit (NEEIA) findings that 44% of patients are not referred within the target of three working days.

Mr Randall also referred to BSR’s latest economic modelling that shows that growing the rheumatology workforce would reduce the health and societal costs of newly diagnosed Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) by £50million and improve patient health outcomes in 5 years.

Responding to the debate, Sam McIntyre, Director of Practice and Quality said, We applaud the unwavering dedication of parliamentary champions Mr Randall and Mr Shannon for so persuasively setting out the challenges our members and patients confront.

Delays are impacting diagnosis, treatment and quality of care. While we appreciate the Minister’s acknowledging the hard work and perseverance of the rheumatology community, his silence in response to our powerful economic analysis, which demonstrates that investments in workforce would dramatically improve care, spoke the loudest.

The Long-term Workforce Plan is a promising stride towards NHS workforce preparedness, but it’s a jigsaw missing its crucial middle pieces without firm commitments in relation to growing its specialist workforce”.

Contributions to the debate stressed the importance of primary care in early diagnosis and treatment, and that improving public and primary care awareness of these conditions is crucial to prevent delayed diagnosis. DUP and Northern Ireland representative, Jim Shannon MP, raised the importance of recognising that arthritis affects people of all ages.

Whilst commending the government for the introduction of its major conditions strategy Mr Randall MP also urged the government to clarify its plans for growing the rheumatology workforce, as this could significantly reduce health and societal costs.

Responding to the debate, Will Quince MP, committed to continue working with charities and stakeholders to improve the lives of those with arthritis. He also recognised the impact on patients and their families of early diagnosis and the need for more personalised care and support.

BSR continue to work with parliamentarians from all parties across the UK to push rheumatology up the political agenda and will be following up the parliamentary debate with a direct approach to government.

If you haven’t already, please help us to get our message to parliament and Government, by putting the ACT into action and taking our e-action here.

Watch the debate here. Mentions of the BSR are at 11.05.58 and 11.08.54.

The transcript can be read here.