The important role of specialist nurses in the treatment and support of patients with rheumatoid arthritis has been highlighted in a critical report on the current state of services for patients.
The analysis by the charity Arthritis Care – published last week – warned that patients with rheumatoid arthritis continue to be “systematically and appallingly let down by the NHS”.
It reveals more than half of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers have to visit their GP more than three times before being referred to a medical specialist – despite the fact early diagnosis is key in treating the condition successfully.
Meanwhile, four out of five patients are not getting a personalised care plan based on an individual assessment of their needs.
Little progress has been made in improving care and services for the more than 500,000 people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis in England and Wales, despite a call for reform from the Public Accounts Committee and National Audit Office three years ago, it concluded.
The Three Wasted Years report makes a series of recommendations including the fact people with rheumatoid arthritis should have access to a multi-disciplinary team with regular assessments of the impact of the condition on their life.
A named team member such as a specialist nurse should be responsible for co-ordinating their care, it added.
“Specialist nurses are dedicated clinical experts who are able to spend time with patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and provide them with a range of aspects of care from drug treatments to exercise plans, and help to ensure that patients have a better experience of care,” said the report.