I know this can be a very painful and debilitating condition. I recognise that living with a long-term condition, such as arthritis, has a significant impact upon a person’s wellbeing and I would like to thank the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and Versus Arthritis for raising awareness of this issue.
I know that there is no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments that can help slow it down, including lifestyle changes, medicines and surgery. I welcome that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is presently working on updated guidance for treatment of Osteoarthritis, which is due for publication following extensive consultation in 2022. I will continue to monitor this issue and I welcome that Versus Arthritis is already registered as a stakeholder in this process.
As I am sure you are aware, the NHS is being provided with an additional £33.9 billion by 2023/24; this is the largest, longest funding settlement in the history of the NHS. This landmark investment to help secure the long term future of our NHS is extremely welcome, and I hope you agree it demonstrates the Government’s commitment to properly funding our NHS and public services: health is the Government's top priority.
Alongside this, the NHS was asked to undertake a clinical review of standards relating to waiting times. This must be clinically led to enable best, and safest, delivery of care for patients. I understand that NHS England has now prepared proposals, covering waiting times across the service, including elective procedures, mental health, cancer, and A&E.
I understand that the recommendations following this review have been deferred as part of the NHS response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is understandable. I will be sure to study these in due course.
I know that, while it has been important to postpone some NHS activities to protect individuals and enable resources to be used as efficiently as possible, my colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as NHS Staff, are determined to restart elective procedures as soon as it is safe to do so. I was delighted when the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced on 27th April that, from the following day, NHS services began restarting, including the most urgent, like cancer care and mental health support. The exact pace of this restoration is determined by local circumstances, according to local need and demand, and according to the number of coronavirus cases being dealt with by the hospital.
I hope I have provided with you with a measure of clarity and reassurance that the needs of people with arthritis and related conditions is important to the Government.