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Arthritis, joint replacement and patients’ rights under the NHS Constitution

We’re working to help make people with arthritis aware of their rights within the NHS Constitution.

Severe osteoarthritis is a painful condition which can have a substantial impact on people’s lives: 93% of initial hip replacements and 98% of initial knee replacements occur because of osteoarthritis. People often live in pain for many years before they approach their GP about their condition. If a joint replacement operation is needed, the referral to treatment waiting times encountered in orthopaedics (the specialty in which joint replacement surgery is undertaken) are longer than in many other specialities.

Under the NHS Constitution a person referred for an operation, including a joint replacement, has a number of rights about the treatment they can expect to receive: a right to be treated within an agreed waiting time of 18 weeks from referral; and a right to request an alternative provider if their current provider is unable to treat them within the specified time frame.

Our policy spotlight report (pdf 287kb) focuses on the awareness of people with arthritis of their rights in the NHS Constitution when having a joint replacement. It is based on the findings of a workshop we held with the Department of Health involving people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. The spotlight focuses on the main observations from the workshop, a longer report is available via the Department of Health website.

The workshop participants wanted the NHS to provide patients waiting for surgery with more information about their rights. We welcome the subsequent change to the NHS Standard Contract (see page 15) which now includes standard information of treatment rights on first outpatient appointment letters.

New report into people with arthritis' awareness of their rights within the NHS Constitution

Image of a man holding his knee

A report from Arthritis Research UK published today sheds new light on the awareness that people with arthritis have of their rights within the NHS Constitution, their need for information and support and their experiences of living with the pain of arthritis.

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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.