Joan McAlpine MSP meets with local rheumatoid arthritis patients to raise awareness of chronic, autoimmune disease

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has shown support for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and helped to raise awareness by attending a constituents’ drop-in session hosted by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) in the Scottish Parliament.

RA is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease which can cause long term disability. NRAS estimates that it affects nearly 60,000 people in Scotland – equivalent to around 800 per Scottish Parliament constituency – and poses a significant economic burden on the Scottish economy.

Ms McAlpine was met by RA patients, clinicians from across Scotland and NRAS Chief Executive, Ailsa Bosworth (pictured). They discussed what could be done to improve referral and diagnosis rates and ensure consistent, high quality care for RA patients across Scotland.

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment within 12 weeks of symptom onset are central to improving long term patient outcomes and reducing the likelihood of work disability. Access to care by a multi-disciplinary team of health care professionals, such as specialist rheumatology nurses and physiotherapists is also very important. Despite this, a report by the Scottish Public Health Network in 2012, found that in Scotland the average time from symptom onset to seeing a specialist in was 24 weeks and that multi-disciplinary team care was not consistently available.

Ailsa Bosworth, Chief Executive of NRAS, said: ‘I am very grateful for support in helping to raise awareness of RA and the key issues facing people with this disease. NRAS wants to improve awareness to reduce delays to diagnosis and treatment and ensure that all patients have access to the care they need, including the vital support provided by specialist rheumatology nurses and other members of the multi-disciplinary team’.

SNP MSP Ms McAlpine said:

“I am very happy to lend my support to this worthwhile campaign.

“RA affects nearly 60’000 people from Scotland and can strike at any age.

“The drop in session was a great opportunity to discuss what we as parliamentarians can do to ensure RA patients receive the best possible care and learn about the fantastic work the NRAS is doing not just in Scotland but across the UK”.

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