There are around ten million people in the UK living with arthritis, with the number of Scots with arthritis set to double by 2030. Too often it can go unnoticed or ignored by wider society. I therefore welcome efforts to raise awareness of the condition and the impact it can have on people’s daily lives.
I also pay tribute to the work of Arthritis Research UK in bringing together professional and patient organisations, policymakers and researchers to support better outcomes for people with musculoskeletal conditions. I am aware of the Arthritis Research UK Summer Reception on Wednesday and I hope to drop into this.
As health is devolved in Scotland, support for people living with arthritis is the responsibility of the Scottish Government. In December 2016, the Scottish Government launched “A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People – Our Delivery Plan to 2021 for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, which included £3 million of funding between 2015-2018 for an active and independent living improvement programme.
Aids and adaptations in the home support people with arthritis to carry out essential tasks and maintain their quality of life. The Scottish Government has advised that local authorities and NHS Boards can provide equipment to individuals, following an assessment of their needs.
However, I am concerned by recent reports that more than 31,000 patients with musculoskeletal (MSK) problems had to wait over a month to see a health or social care professional during the first three months of 2018. Patients and staff deserve better. That is why at last year’s general election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts which are impacting so heavily on our health and care services – and invest in local services.
We must be aware that, given the ageing population, more people will suffer with arthritis in the coming years. I and my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament will therefore continue to press for proper investment to be put in place to address our nation’s health and social care needs.