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Friday, 20 April, 2001, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
NHS arthritis care 'inadequate'
Most arthritis patients are unhappy with their treatment
Arthritis affects eight million people in the UK
Four out of five people with arthritis are unhappy with the standard of care they get from the NHS, a charity has revealed.

Arthritis Care quizzed 45,000 people with the condition and found only one fifth were happy with the treatment they were receiving.

It said its survey had revealed too many people were told to "go away and live with it".

Arthritis Care is raising the issue during Arthritis Care Awareness Week, which begins on Saturday.

A lot of people contact us who are very dissatisfied with the care they have received

Arthritis Research Campaign
Arthritis affects about eight million people in the UK, a million of whom are under 46.

It is the biggest single cause of disability and accounts for one in five visits to the GP.

It is calling for health professionals to be more aware of the different treatments available for the condition.

The charity is also aiming to inform patients with a pack which spells out different options, including self-help and complementary therapies.

'Deprived' of drugs

But Neil Betteridge, head of public policy for Arthritis Care said patients were being deprived of new and effective arthritis drugs.

He said: "It is particularly ironic that new treatments have recently been licensed which could greatly improve the lives of many people with arthritis - but people don't know about them.

"And even when they do have the information, because of cost and so called postcode rationing, people are going to have to fight to get them."

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), the body which issues advice over which drugs are effective and can be prescribed on the NHS, is looking at two kinds of arthritis drugs.

A decision on Cox-II inhibitors, which are used to treat osteoarthritis, is set to be made soon by NICE.

Anti-TNF blockers, used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, will also be considered.

Cost implications

Dr Andrew Bamji, consultant rheumatologist at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup said: "We believe the government should consider ring-fencing for these drugs, and that must include the cost of proper patient support.

"The present situation is unfair, divisive and possibly in contravention of the Human Rights Act."

Mr Betteridge told BBC News Online that health professionals, particularly in primary care, often seemed to believe the myth that arthritis only affects the elderly.

And he said patients, particularly those with osteoarthritis were not always referred on to specialists.

A spokeswoman for the Arthritis Research Campaign backed Arthritis Care's calls for better treatment and support for patients.

"A lot of people contact us who are very dissatisfied with the care they have received, particularly from their GP."

She said people were often patronised, and just told it was "just their age".

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