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For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org

One in four local authorities 'missing the health needs of people with arthritis'

Published on 11 March 2015

One in four local authorities in England are failing their local communities by missing the needs of people with musculoskeletal conditions, according to our new report, published today.

The report, A Fair Assessment (PDF 1.2 MB), analysed content of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA) of local authorities with a statutory duty for public health in England. It shows that:

  • one in four (26%) of local authorities in England failed to mention arthritis
  • 62% missed back pain in their assessment of the health needs of the communities which they serve.

Ignoring musculoskeletal conditions now will store up huge problems for local health and social care services in the future.

The affects of arthritis

Musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoarthritis and back pain, affect more than 7 million people in England:

  • A third of the people over 45 have osteoarthritis of the knee (the most common form of joint disease).
  • Osteoarthritis of the knee affects between 15 and 21% of people in local authorities in England.
  • Back pain affects 4 out of 5 of us at some point in our lives.

Conditions such as back pain and osteoarthritis cause pain and disability. Each year around a fifth of the population consult their GP about a musculoskeletal condition. The conditions account for £5 billion of NHS spend (making it the fourth-largest NHS programme budget), are the leading cause of working days lost and cost the UK economy over £20 billion annually.

With an ageing and increasingly obese population, and rates of physical activity continuing to decrease, the number of people living with osteoarthritis and back pain will increase rapidly over the next 10 years.

Local authorities failing their duty

Liam O TooleOur chief executive officer, Dr Liam O’Toole, said: “A number of local authorities in England are failing in their duty to assess the needs of people with arthritis and back pain, and we’re concerned they may not be providing appropriate services which meet their needs.”

“For too long, musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoarthritis and back pain, have been placed in the ‘too difficult’ box.

"As the number of people living with these conditions continues to increase, there is an urgent need for local authorities to properly assess the impact on the communities which they serve.”

What local authorities can do

We're calling on local authorities to recognise the needs of residents with arthritis, and to hold an internal investigation to identify why they have not already done so. We're also asking for the National Audit Office to review the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy (JHWS) process in relation to long-term conditions.

There are many treatments and interventions available to alleviate the pain and discomfort of osteoarthritis and back pain. These include drugs and other medical treatments, alongside taking a public health approach which is now the responsibility of local authorities for local delivery.

For example, co-ordinated efforts to reduce rates of obesity and provide better access to appropriate physical activity sessions such as swimming or access to sporting facilities which can help to reduce pain and strengthen joints.

Musculoskeletal Calculator

Traditionally there has been little data at a local level to quantify the impact of musculoskeletal conditions. To coincide with the release of the report, we're launching our Musculoskeletal Calculator, where national and local policy makers can access data on the number of people living with hip and knee osteoarthritis in their local area."There needs to be a shift away from the perception that musculoskeletal conditions are not a priority."

Dr Liam O’Toole said: “There needs to be a shift away from the perception that musculoskeletal conditions are not a priority or that nothing can be done.

"It is a priority for millions of people with arthritis and there are many treatments and interventions that can help.”

“We now have the data to show the huge burden that these conditions place on the individual and society. We want to ensure that every person living with arthritis is recognised and they receive the services that will make a tangible improvement to their quality of life.”

For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.