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Influencing for people with arthritis in 2017

Published on 21 December 2017
Summer reception 2017

We know that arthritis can impact on all parts of a person’s life, and as a result our policy, campaigns and public affairs team have had a busy year. Working across health, work, benefits, social care, and many more areas, there have been lots of positive developments to reflect on in 2017, but there are also some big challenges ahead.

A huge thanks to everyone who has supported our work across 2017. Your emails to decision makers, survey responses, petition signatures and the stories you’ve shared with us, have made our work hugely powerful and helped us create an impact.

Here’s a rundown of our top 5 highlights of 2017:

We made sure people’s voices were heard on the topic of work

We know that work matters to many people with arthritis, helping them remain independent, giving a sense of control, and improving quality of life. This time last year, the Government acknowledged that things needed to improve. We submitted a consultation response to this with suggestions about what could be done to improve the system. Alongside this, 319 of our campaigners signed an open letter to Government on the topic of work, with 269 people submitting a personal story. By the 30 November 2017 the Government had gone through all the responses it received, and announced its plans. There are some positive aspects, and some not so positive. Going forward we will follow up with decision makers to ensure that people with all forms of arthritis are able to remain in work, or return to work, if they are able to do so.

We engaged politicians

To make big change happen, we need decision makers to understand what they can do to help. To support this, we’ve been increasing the recognition of arthritis with all political parties. We hosted receptions in Westminster and Holyrood with numerous MPs and MSPs speaking to people with arthritis about the key problems they face, trying out our interactive station, and learning how many people in their local constituency live with arthritis. We also went to the four major political party conferences in September and October, where our team attended high profile events and round tables, and manned a stand for the first time at Labour and Conservative conferences. We were delighted to be joined by Frances and Bobbie, who both live with arthritis, and spoke to delegates about their experiences. We now have over 60 MPs and almost 40 MSPs who are Arthritis Champions and bring up issues that people with arthritis face in parliament.

We highlighted problems with the benefits system

We want to ensure that people with arthritis have access to a fair benefits system if they need it. As members of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), before the election, we promoted their petition asking the Government to address the flaws with the benefits system, which resulted in over 16,000 signatures. Three of our campaigners attended a hustings event where politicians answered questions on the topics of benefits and social care. At this, one of our campaigners Maureen, asked a question of the Minister around the Access to Work scheme.

We also promoted the DBC's Big Benefits Survey throughout 2017, which resulted in over 1500 people with musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions taking part. These findings were used to produce the DBC’s ‘Supporting those who need it most?’ report in Sept 2017, which featured a story from our campaigner Debs. The report examines how certain benefits work for people with long term conditions. Over 200 campaigners sent this report to their local MP, and asked them to support people with arthritis who need to access the benefits system. In October 2017 the Work and Pensions Committee announced the launch of a PIP and ESA assessments Inquiry. This would not have happened without the work members of the DBC have done on this issue.

We produced new reports on multimorbidity and physical activity

We know that many people with arthritis also live with other long-term conditions. But often the process of accessing treatment and services for multiple conditions can prove to be frustrating. As members of the Richmond Group, we have pushed for the issues people with multimorbidities face to be examined and improved. To support this, in 2017 we produced a report exploring why it's essential to consider the impact of musculoskeletal disease when planning how our health system tackles multimorbidity. The report sets out why musculoskeletal conditions must be included in future plans to address multimorbidity and makes seven clear recommendations for change. We will continue to tackle this area, to ensure professionals and clinicians are aware of the issues faced by people with arthritis, and address them.

We also produced a report on the benefits of physical activity for some forms of arthritis. For many people, regular physical activity can reduce pain and disability, as well as improve mental health and wellbeing. Our report 'Providing physical activity interventions for people with musculoskeletal conditions' was produced jointly with the Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England. In it, we review the benefits of physical activity both for people with musculoskeletal conditions and wider society, and provide realistic solutions for local physical activity provision.

We secured a commitment on data

In order to improve things, we need to know what the problems are. Without good quality data, this is difficult. We’ve raised this issue on many occasions and are delighted that the Department of Health and NHS England have recognised that more data needs to be collected around MSK conditions. The Government made a commitment in their 2017/2018 NHS mandate to increase the opportunities to collect MSK data. To support this, our policy team set up an MSK data advisory group which works with key stakeholders across the sector to develop a set of recommendations which we hope will help increase data on arthritis, so that people’s treatment and experience improves.

Join us!

If you’d like to be involved in this kind of work, you can stay up to date by joining our campaigner network. We look forward to continuing our work to improve the system in 2018.


Arthritis Research UK call for musculoskeletal conditions to be central to future multimorbidity plans

A lady holding a bicycle and a coffee cup

Arthritis Research UK has launched a report exploring why it's essential to consider musculoskeletal health when planning how our health system tackles multimorbidity.

Raising awareness of arthritis in Scotland

Left to right: Tracey Loftis, Dr Mohini Gray, Maureen McAllister, Rachael Hamilton MSP, Jeremy Balfour MSP, Kathryn Martin, Angela Donaldson-Bruce

On Tuesday 5th December, we held a Scottish parliamentary reception in Holyrood to highlight the prevalence and impact of arthritis in Scotland.

Join our campaigner network

Fiona, Arthritis Research UK campaign officer, and Jennylyn looking at paperwork

Join the thousands of people campaigning to push back the limits of arthritis. Take action with us to transform the lives of the 17.8 million people in the UK.

Is your MP an Arthritis Champion?

Big Ben

Find out how UK MPs and MSPs can champion people living with arthritis in their local area.

For more information, go to
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.