Local MP Toby Perkins MP met members from the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) to ask how rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects not just the health of his constituents but the health of the economy.

A recent report from the charity found that the costs to the UK economy of the condition arising from productivity losses total almost £8 billion.

RA is a chronic and disabling autoimmune disease, affecting about 690,000 people in the UK. It has no known cause or cure. It remains a major cause of worklessness, almost 30% of people with RA surveyed by NRAS in 2007 gave up work within a year of being diagnosed with the condition.

The Public Accounts Committee report on services for people with rheumatoid arthritis highlighted significant variations in the spending on and quality of services for people with RA and other musculoskeletal conditions across the country.Yet, it also recommended that earlier diagnosis and treatment could not only limit the progression of the disease but also deliver significant savings for the NHS and wider economy.

Toby Perkins MP commented, “People with rheumatoid arthritis deserve to receive the care and treatment on the NHS and I commend the work of NRAS in highlighting the variations in spend and in the quality of service across the country. I will be speaking to the local NHS to find out what they are doing to tackle both the health and economic burden of rheumatoid arthritis”

Ailsa Bosworth, Chief Executive of NRAS said: “It is crucial that rheumatoid arthritis patients are diagnosed and treated early. This will not only ensure that patients receive best prognosis and are able to remain active and in work but will also help the NHS realise the savings it needs to make over the next few years by reducing the need for costly interventions and inpatient stays”

We urge the Government to address the recommendations from the Public Accounts Committee as a priority.

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