I recognise that living with a long-term condition, such as arthritis, has a significant impact upon a person’s wellbeing and I would like to thank the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and Versus Arthritis for raising awareness of this issue.
I know that there is no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments that can help slow it down, including lifestyle changes, medicines and surgery. I welcome that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is presently working on updated guidance for treatment of Osteoarthritis, which is due for publication following extensive consultation in 2022. I will continue to monitor this issue and I welcome that Versus Arthritis is already registered as a stakeholder in this process.
Alongside this, the NHS was asked to undertake a clinical review of standards relating to waiting times. This must be clinically led to enable best, and safest, delivery of care for patients. I understand that NHS England has now prepared proposals, covering waiting times across the service, including elective procedures, mental health, cancer, and A&E.
I understand that the recommendations following this review have been deferred as part of the NHS response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is understandable. I will be sure to study these in due course.
I know that, while it has been important to postpone some NHS activities to protect individuals and enable resources to be used as efficiently as possible, my colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as NHS Staff, are determined to restart elective procedures as soon as it is safe to do so. I was delighted when the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced on 27th April that, from the following day, NHS services began restarting, including the most urgent, like cancer care and mental health support. The exact pace of this restoration is determined by local circumstances, according to local need and demand, and according to the number of coronavirus cases being dealt with by the hospital.
Funding for the DFG increased from £220 million in 2015 to 2016 to £431 million in 2017 to 2018, and now stands at £505 million for 2020 to 2021. However, I recognise there is more to do. Clinical guidelines for arthritis currently highlight the importance of self-management, and to help patients manage their condition, and live as independently as possible.