Together, we’re shaping the future of support and treatments

24 June 2020
Lady taking tablets, policy team meeting with MPs and man working from home.

Thousands of you have told us how pain and COVID-19 has been affecting your lives. 

We’re actively working with the NHS and health organisations across the UK to ensure that people with arthritis get the advice they need to manage their pain now, and that treatment and services can restart safely in the future.

Read our latest information - coronavirus and arthritis.

Your views matter

The experiences of people with arthritis are at the heart of these conversations.

We recently launched a survey to find out more about your needs during the COVID-19 lockdown. We’ve had feedback from over 6,500 people so far, including hundreds of people who’ve told us they’re facing delays to planned joint replacement surgery. 

Your insight is helping to shape the future of support and treatments as the NHS is looking to restart services.  

The impact of delays to joint replacement surgery

Earlier this year, our Right on Time campaign highlighted how tens of thousands of people with arthritis were waiting more than the maximum waiting time of 18 weeks to receive joint replacement surgery.

The impact of COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the NHS, and we respect the need to prioritise care for those patients with or at risk of contracting the virus.

As the NHS begins to plan for the future, all NHS Trusts have now been asked to consider and make judgements at a local level about whether some planned care, such as joint replacements, might be possible. 

We’ve been working closely with NHS England and orthopaedic surgeons (who undertake the operations) as they develop guidance about how hospitals can restart surgery safely.

We’ve also been raising awareness of this issue in the media, including news coverage in the Independent, Daily Mail and Channel 5 News.

Influencing the future of health services and support in parliament

We’re making sure the issues that matter to you are raised in Parliament too.

We’re proud that Rob, one of our campaigners, gave evidence to a group of MPs in Parliament known as the ‘Health and Social Care Select Committee’. He spoke about the impact that waiting for a knee replacement has had on his life.

Rob Martinez tells MPs about the impact of delays to urgent treatment

Rob Martinez tells MPs about the impact of delays to urgent treatment

At the select committee held on 30 June, the Chief Executive Officer of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens, was shown a clip of Rob’s evidence. He said it was “distressing” to hear his experience and has offered to contact the hospital. So, we’re now preparing a letter to follow-up with Sir Simon Stevens about this.

Read more about how Rob’s evidence in parliament has ensured that your voice is heard.

MPs are reviewing how core NHS and care services are being delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Versus Arthritis submitted a response to the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry on this topic. 

Additionally, we highlighted the value of physical activity programmes that can help people with arthritis to self-manage their symptoms while waiting for surgery to be resumed.  

We’ve also written to MPs asking them to become an Arthritis Champion and speak out on arthritis issues at Westminster.

In June, we had a virtual meeting with Shadow Disabilities Minister, Vicky Foxcroft MP, to discuss the challenges facing people with arthritis during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Access to Work scheme and the safe re-start of planned surgery.

Vicky has now signed up to be an Arthritis Champion and will continue to raise awareness of arthritis in parliament. 

Across the UK

We’ve been working with devolved parliaments and national health organisations to tackle the problems that people are facing across the UK. This includes:

  • In Northern Ireland, we’ve written to the First and Deputy First Minister (in partnership with Macmillan cancer support) to highlight our concerns about shielding. Also asking for clearer guidance and for a lead minister within the Assembly to develop a detailed strategy to protect the quality of life of people who are vulnerable due to COVID-19.
  • In Scotland, we were asked by the Scottish Government to say what they should be aware of and prioritise in relation to restarting chronic pain services in Scotland. We used evidence and insight from people with arthritis including our campaign network to tell them our priorities:

    1) Ensure support for MSK pain
    2) Involve people with arthritis in shaping how services restart
    3) Communicate clearly with people who will use the services so they can make their own decisions about treatment
    4) Prioritise local support for people with MSK pain including self-management

    We also had a call with the Scottish Government to discuss the impact of shielding on people with arthritis in Scotland. 
  • In Wales, we’ve been in regular contact with the Welsh Government and, together with a number of other voluntary organisations, we’ve written to the Health Minister to highlight concerns about shielding.

We’re here for you

If you’re feeling isolated from family and friends during these uncertain times, we’re here for you.