Serious deficiencies in the healthcare provision for people with arthritis
/ rheumatism have been exposed today in the results of a new European survey.
More than 100 million people in Europe are affected by arthritis / rheumatism, making it Europe’s most widespread chronic disease. The condition can have serious consequences, ranging from severe pain to loss of mobility, and delays in diagnosis and treatment have been shown to increase the risk of further joint damage. However, the survey showed that a third of people with arthritis / rheumatism had to wait over a year before receiving the correct diagnosis, while 15 per cent had to wait up to three years.
In addition, although over half of the respondents in the survey said their condition had a major impact on their ability to work, only 34 per cent said they had convenient access to occupational therapy and 44 per cent to rehabilitation.
Undertaken by the People with Arthritis / Rheumatism in Europe (PARE) Manifesto Steering Group, a body representing the EULAR Social Leagues (patient groups), the survey also showed a significant impact on quality of life, with more than 50 per cent of people stating it had a moderate or major impact on relationships with family and friends.
In addition, although arthritis / rheumatism is a long-term condition, less than two out of ten people with arthritis / rheumatism questioned in the survey thought that they were very well-informed about it, while four out of ten people felt fairly well-informed.
Speaking at the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) medical congress, Dr Neil Betteridge, Chair of the PARE Manifesto Steering Group, said that the results of the survey revealed a need to improve access to information and healthcare provision.
“The pain and disability of arthritis / rheumatism affects every aspect of life and it has serious consequences for society, but despite this, many people do not have access to appropriate treatment and support,” he said.
Dissatisfaction with treatment was also a problem – a quarter of those surveyed were dissatisfied with the treatment their doctor prescribed and only a quarter were very or extremely satisfied. Poor pain relief (59 per cent) and unpleasant side-effects (43 per cent) were the major reasons for lack of contentment. Gastrointestinal (GI) side-effects were cited as by far the most common side-effect (32 per cent). GI side-effects are commonly associated with the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a common treatment for arthritis / rheumatism.
The survey involved 617 people with arthritis / rheumatism from seven European countries, (France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden and the UK).