There are roughly ten million people in the UK living with arthritis. However, it can often go unnoticed or ignored by individuals and wider society.
I sympathise profoundly with anyone who is affected and I pay tribute to organisations like Versus Arthritis for the work they do in raising awareness and campaigning for better services.
NHS standards state that patients referred for consultant-led treatment should start treatment within 18 weeks. The Government has not met the target – that 92% of all patients on the waiting list should be treated within 18 weeks – since March 2016.
Indeed, the waiting list for treatment has grown since 2012 and now stands at a record 4.6 million people. Last year, more than 24,000 patients waited more than 18 weeks for hip replacement surgery, while more than 31,000 people waited longer than 18 weeks for knee replacement surgery.
I believe that the Government should guarantee the standards of healthcare patients are entitled to receive.
Many vulnerable people living with arthritis who are waiting longer for treatment are often in pain and suffer from distress and anxiety. This runs the serious risk that their health will deteriorate further, with poorer outcomes for patients who are waiting longer than six months, when treatment is less effective.
I remain concerned that patients are repeatedly being let down by a Government which has, over the past decade, imposed the most significant cash squeeze in the NHS’s history. I support increasing expenditure across the health service by an average 4.3% to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need, and to guarantee and uphold the standards of care enshrined in the NHS Constitution.
I have written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP, and raised this issue with him. I will continue to press the Government to give the NHS the funding and staff it needs to deliver the care that people living with arthritis deserve and ensure that patients can access life-changing treatment when it will make the most difference.