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Government "action, not words" needed to push back limits of arthritis

Published on 24 October 2016
The Houses of Parliament

A Health Minister has told a parliamentary debate that arthritis is a "priority" for the Government.

Speaking at the first parliamentary debate on arthritis in over five years, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health David Mowat MP said that it was now "about action, not words" to push back the limits of arthritis for the 10 million people living with the condition in the UK today.

The parliamentary debate, led by the Strangford MP Jim Shannon, highlighted Arthritis Research UK’s Share Your Everyday campaign, and the pain, isolation and fatigue that millions of people with arthritis live with every day.

"Completely and utterly drained"

During the debate in Parliament on 20th October 2016, MPs from all major parties spoke about the need to ensure more focus on the prevention of arthritis, supporting exceptional science in the UK that’s working towards more effective treatment, diagnosis and a cure for arthritis, and the transformation of services and support for people living in pain today.

The most poignant moments of the debate came when MPs shared their own experiences of arthritis and its impact on their lives.

Revealing her experience of inflammatory arthritis, West Ham MP Lyn Brown was one of several MPs to speak powerfully about its impact on her life and work as an MP.

During her speech the MP said: "In March (2015), I finally hit a brick wall. I felt completely and utterly drained of energy and could barely walk more than a few steps. I had to drag myself up the stairs of my house by pulling on the bannister. I was unable to stand at street stalls for any length of time, or go canvassing.

"I contacted voters (during the General Election 2015) only on the phone, or at meetings where I could be completely sedentary. I needed help putting on my bra. I felt humiliated, embarrassed and a complete and utter failure.

The MP continued: "Despite being referred to my arthritis service in November 2014, it was early May 2015 before I was finally diagnosed with seronegative inflammatory arthritis. I now know that fatigue is very common among sufferers of arthritis due to pain, stress and sleep disturbance. More specifically – this is not very well known out there – fatigue is a symptom of inflammatory arthritis."

During the debate MPs also called for an investigation into the physical activity services available for people with arthritis.

Jim Shannon MP said: "Above all, the Government needs to make sure that effective physical activity services are available locally. This is crucially important and I hope colleagues from all sides of the House will join me in calling for a review by the National Audit Office into physical activity services for people with osteoarthritis, so that services are helping people across the UK maintain good musculoskeletal health."

You can read what MPs said in full at the debate, or watch it (scroll to 15:00).

Our response

Arthritis Research UK director of external affairs, Olivia Belle, said: "Arthritis is the biggest cause of pain and disability in the UK, but we know that many people with arthritis often feel isolated by the pain and fatigue of their condition.

"I’m delighted that MPs from all parties have got involved with our Share Your Everyday campaign, giving people with arthritis in their constituencies a voice.

"It was fantastic to see MPs share their own moving stories of living with arthritis in support of the campaign and the thousands of people in every constituency who live with the condition.

"As this debate has highlighted, there is much that can be done to improve the support available to people living with arthritis, but we can’t do it alone. MPs and the Government can play a key role in pushing back the limits of arthritis for the 10 million living with arthritis across the UK.

"This year we’re asking people to share their everyday with us, to help us continue to harness the power of exceptional science and push back the limits of arthritis.

"With everyone’s support, we can continue to invest in breakthrough treatments, the best information and vital support for everyone affected by arthritis today, and in the future."

Your actions make the difference

In the past 2 weeks, people with arthritis have made their voice heard loud and clear, sharing your stories on our dedicated sharing wall, and asking over 320 MPs to help push back the limits of arthritis through our campaign action.

There were hundreds more people who took part in our Facebook debate in partnerships with the House of Commons Engagement team in the run up to the Parliamentary debate, with your comments being passed directly to MPs to read.

We want to say a massive thank you to everyone who took part, helping us to campaign for political action to deliver everyday freedom from the limits of arthritis for 10 million people.

What next?

With the Government Minister admitting that action, not words, is now needed to tackle arthritis, and that the numbers of people affected by arthritis were "mind-boggling", we will be keeping up the pressure on politicians to deliver on their commitments to people with arthritis.

Our team has secured a meeting with the minister to put across the case, and this autumn and winter we’ll be campaigning on the big ideas and little changes that can help people break free.

Share Your Everyday

Don’t forget, it’s not just MPs who can share their experiences of arthritis - you can share your everyday experiences of living with arthritis to help Arthritis Research UK find your everyday freedom.

With your support Arthritis Research UK can help millions of people push back the limits of arthritis.

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