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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Doctors 'failing arthritis patients'
An estimated 6m Britons have arthritis
Half of all patients with arthritis know very little about their condition or the treatment options open to them, a survey suggests.

Research by the Arthritis Action Group shows that 50% of patients do not feel they should trouble their doctors if they have aches or pains.

Some 40% said they did not think anything could be done to improve their condition and many wrongly accept a poorer quality of life.

It is imperative that physicians and patients with arthritis develop a partnership

Prof Anthony Woolf, Arthritis Action Group
The group, which comprises doctors and academics from across Europe, said the findings highlighted the need for doctors to improve the way the explained arthritis to patients.

Treatment advice

The survey found that three out of four GPs in the UK do not offer leaflets to patients explaining their condition.

But perhaps more worryingly, 82% did not provide patients with details of the treatment options available to them.

It also revealed that almost half of patients receiving non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) - the most common treatment for arthritis - are unaware of their side-effects.

Anthony Woolf, professor of rheumatology at the Royal Cornwall Trust and chairman of the Arthritis Action Group, said the survey demonstrated the need for improved communication between doctors and patients.

"It is imperative that physicians and patients with arthritis develop a partnership in determining the most appropriate treatment," he said.

"To make a real difference in the lives of people with arthritis, we need to ensure that physicians and patients have the information they need to carefully consider and discuss the full range of options when making treatment decisions."

A spokesman for the UK charity Arthritis Care said the results were not surprising.

"We carried out our own survey last year among our 2,000 supporters and found that only 18% felt confident their GP had a good understanding of arthritis," he told BBC News Online.

"But the problem is these patients come from a generation where they have been brought up to shut up and put up and basically they are too polite to say anything to their doctor."

He said many of the problems were caused by the fact that GPs were overstretched and had limited time with patients.

The charity runs an information service for people with arthritis. It can be contacted in the UK on tel. 0800 444 881.

See also:

20 May 02 | Health
Arthritis at 'epidemic' level
22 Mar 02 | Health
Go-ahead for NHS arthritis drugs
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