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Specialist nurses key to improving arthritis care

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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.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Individual care plans for people with long term conditions have not materilised for many patients who have often have disjointed care.
    It is vital that the role of specialist nurses is extended and not subject to cut backs to ensure individual patient centred care with a known easy to contact person for ongoing support when needed.
    My 89 year old mother has RA and used to receive excellent support from the Rhematology centre. However she recently received a phone call from the centre stating that her care had been transferred to her GP and that she was to get her supplies of methatrexate for injection via GP prescription. The methatrexate for injection is not on the Drug Tariff and cannot be obtained by a simple FP10. Whilst her GP surgery has in recent years arranged rountine blood tests to monitor the effects of the drug, they have been forwarded to the specialist centre. A letter that my mother was not copied into did state fotunately she would still see the consultant but nothing on ongoing support.

    It appears that there could be issues of funding for long term conditions with the hospital passing the buck back to the GP over Drug and test costs
    I would welcome imethatrexate for injection to be on the Drug Tariff as it now comes ready to use,with a reasonably along shelf life and would save me having to make 50 mile round trips from my mother's house not to mention the 300 miles to get there.

    Current cost cutting exercises seem to be leading to confusion on even the availability of drugs in primary care never mind supporting and providing care plans for those with RA or other long term conditions

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