Charity urges next UK Government to prioritise arthritis and help sufferers stay in work

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Versus Arthritis has published a manifesto calling on the next UK Government to make arthritis a priority and improve work-related support for the millions of people who suffer from the condition.

The charity has set out five key asks of the next Government in its manifesto, including demands for it to increase funding for research into musculoskeletal disorders and to bring down waiting times for arthritis sufferers who need treatment.

Versus Arthritis said that people with arthritis were up to 20 per cent less likely to be in work than those without the condition. Photograph: iStock/gorodenkoff

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics for 2022/23 showed that of the 1.8 million people who suffered from work-related ill health during the period, 27 per cent had a musculoskeletal disorder.

Versus Arthritis said that people with arthritis were up to 20 per cent less likely to be in work than those without the condition, and that arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions had resulted in the loss of 23.4 million working days in the UK in 2022.

The charity wants the next Government to support more people with arthritis to start and remain in work by increasing access to occupational health programmes. It is also calling for more timely access to, and better promotion of the Government’s Access to Work employment support programme – for which it said waiting times had tripled between March 2021 and 2022.

“Arthritis can have a significant impact on people’s ability to work,” said Versus Arthritis chief executive Deborah Alsina. “Without the right employment support, people struggle to remain in work and are at risk of having to retire early.”

The charity’s call for waiting times to be cut for arthritis sufferers came as the Health Foundation published new research projecting a £38 billion shortfall in the funding needed to improve the UK’s National Health Service by the end of the next Parliament.

Pledges made by both the main political parties ahead of the 4 July General Election fall “well short” of what is needed to revive the NHS and bring down waiting lists, according to the Health Foundation.

“The health service is in crisis and all the main political parties have said they want to fix it – yet the funding they have so far promised falls well short of the level needed to make improvements,” said Anita Charlesworth, director of the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre.

“Politicians need to be honest with the public about the scale of the challenge the NHS faces and the reality that an NHS fit for the future needs long-term sustainable investment. Honesty about this has so far been conspicuously lacking from the General Election debate, with both the main parties unwilling to spell out the difficult choices on public spending and taxation that will confront the next Government.”

British Safety Council chairman Peter McGettrick said recently that the UK’s main political parties had missed an opportunity to put people’s health, safety and wellbeing at the heart of economic growth when they published their pre-election manifestos.

In its own Health, Safety and Wellbeing Manifesto, British Safety Council has called for a holistic approach to health and wellbeing through the appointment of a dedicated Minister for Wellbeing, who would lead a national wellbeing strategy.